30 ONLINE 26 A, Teachers profession in ESE
MeetingID: 880 4884 7602 Code: 2ZGu4Z
The Anthropocene puts into question understandings of nature-culture relationships common in Western Enlightenment thinking, which portray a dualistic understanding of this relationship, based on human exceptionalism. When nature is seen as the passive object and the human as the active subject in a binary nature-culture opposition, the narrative then often becomes one of the human as the “destructor” of nature (Melosi, 2010), or, to the contrary of its “savior”, as reflected in stewardship approaches (Taylor, 2017). Such a binary understanding ignores the agency of nature and its impact on human life as it becomes evident e.g., with climate change or the Covid-19 pandemic, and has been challenged, for instance, by urban theorists calling for a construction of “new urban cosmologies” (Zaera-Polo, 2017, p. 29) or by the nature rights movement, which intends to broaden the existing legal systems to provide nature – or at least parts of nature – the status of a rights-holder (Boyd, 2017).
Education – and particularly educational approaches such as Education for sustainable development (ESD) or Environmental and Sustainability Education (ESE) – have so far mostly focused on a stewardship approach. Students are taught to study the functioning/misfunctioning of natural and social systems and to propose Western science-based technical and political solutions for places all over the world (Marshall, 2011; Kürsteiner and Rinaldi, 2017). This fails to account for the complexity and dynamics of global challenges in the 21st century, and excludes a wide range of narratives and approaches, including indigenous knowledges and monist thinking systems. Nevertheless, some important research has been conducted on new materialist conceptions of outdoor (Mannion, 2020) or place-responsive pedagogies (McKenzie & Bieler, 2016).
In her own teaching at a University of Teacher Education in Switzerland, the author has observed that student teachers find the idea of challenging the nature-culture divide enticing but difficult. Despite the use of affective methods like nature walks and the use of photo-voice (ibid), they struggle to critically engage with alternative ways of thinking.
Based on these observations and inspired by reconfigurations of culture-nature relations such as Haraway’s natureculture continuum (Haraway, 2003) and Braidotti’s (2006; 2019a) zoe, the study addresses the following research question: Which beliefs do student teachers in Switzerland have about nature-culture relations? How can broader thinking, taking into account various knowledge systems, be fostered through ESD/ESE?
The study relies on the practitioner research paradigm, in which all stakeholders are considered to be “knowers, learners and researchers” (Cochran Smith & Lytle, 2009, p. 42). This paradigm is closely linked to action research, which takes as a starting point a concrete problem encountered in practice. Relying on reflective approaches such as a research diary and traditional research methods such as audio and video recordings of teaching and learning activities and interviews, the aim is to explore alternative approaches to solve the identified problem (e.g. Altrichter et al., 2018). In line with the posthumanist/new materialist assumptions on nature-culture relations outlined above, the present study is based on the idea of a diffractive practitioner, whereby diffraction is understood as a means of enquiry that de-centers the human and includes the agency of the more-than-human (Barad, 2007). Relying to the underlying principles of diffractive reading (Bozalek, & Zembylas, 2016), the following data will be read diffractively through one another: - a research diary written by the practitioner-researcher, - pre- and post-intervention essay on nature-culture relations written by student teachers - artefacts and performances resulting from nature walks and city walks - short stories (hopepunk) resulting from utopian thinking on nature-culture relations - videography of classroom activities (diffraction of edu-activities, discussions, etc.). This non-linear approach to research perceives teaching as intra-action (Barad, 2007) and as an assemblage (DeLanda, 2016), thereby opening up for new ways of teaching and learning through and with nature-culture relations.
Diffracting own practice has the potential to break up established ways of thinking and to develop new ways of dealing with nature-culture relations in teacher education. Reconfiguring ways of thinking about the (post-)human subject and human-nature relations provides useful starting points to rethink ESE/ESD creatively: instead of focusing individual responsibility and solidarity, we should rather dedicate pedagogical endeavours to the assemblages that constitute our world, striving to transformation through affirmative thinking and the imagination of new configurations (Braidotti, 2019b).
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