Teacher education for a sustainable future

  • Introduction
  • Activity 1
  • Activity 2
  • Activity 3
  • Activity 4
  • Reflection

Introduction

The purpose of this workshop is to explore the contribution that teacher education can make to reorienting educational policies, programmes and practices towards a sustainable future. The workshop illustrates ways in which the Teaching and Learning for a Sustainable Future programme can support teacher educators in this task.

Objectives

  • To understand the nature, scope and purposes of reorienting educational policies, programmes and practices towards a sustainable future;
  • To appreciate the contribution of teacher education to educating for a sustainable future; and
  • To appreciate ways in which the Teaching and Learning for a Sustainable Future programme can be used.

Activities

  1. What is sustainable development?
  2. Reorienting education for a sustainable future
  3. Teacher education for sustainability
  4. Reviewing a module
  5. Reflection

Resources

This workshop requires:

  • A personal computer and data projector for the facilitator
  • A personal computer for each participant or pair of participants
  • Slideshow 2
  • Resource sheets 2.1 and 2.2 – copies for each participant
  • A whiteboard, flipchart or other means of recording participants’ ideas
  • Chart paper or overhead projector transparencies for group reports

Modules 1 – 4 of Teaching and Learning for a Sustainable Future provide a detailed background to this workshop.

Background information on the meanings of sustainable development and Education for Sustainable Development can be found at UNESCO’s website on Education for Sustainable Development.

Credits

This workshop was developed by John Fien, Jo-Anne Ferreira and Wayne Muller, Griffith University, Australia.

What is sustainable development?

Sustainable development

This is an introductory activity to the workshop and to the concept of sustainable development.

Use Slides 2 – 4 from Slideshow 2 to introduce the title, objectives and provide an overview of the workshop.

While doing so, explain that sustainable development is not just the focus of Teaching and Learning for a Sustinable Future. It also needs to be seen as a process that can lead to peaceful, fair and just societies at local, national and global levels – and that education has important roles to play in helping people develop the knowledge, skills, values and motivations to be able to contribute to the sustainability transition.

Explain that Module 2 in Teaching and Learning for a Sustainable Future provides an intensive study of the meanings of sustainable development and that this workshop focuses on it as well – but that the workshop will begin by inviting participants to share their initial ideas on what sustainable development means.

Sharing ideas

Distribute a small slip of paper to each participant and invite them to write one key principle (in their view) of sustainable development on it.

Ask participants to share their principle with one other person – and then listen to the other person’s explanation of their principle.

Ask participants to then place all slips of paper on a table (or the floor) and to group them in ways that make sense to them (e.g. commonalities, similar themes, duplicated points, etc.)

From the groupings, identify and discuss key principles that have emerged.

Ask the group to identify key principles that might have been overlooked and discuss these.

Key Principles of Sustainable Development

Use Slides 5 – 14 to provide an introduction to the concept of sustainable development.

Background ideas include:

Sustainable development aims to ensure a better quality of life for everyone, now and for generations to come.

The term was popularised by the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED) in its 1987 report entitled Our Common Future. This book is also known as the Brundtland Report, after the Chair of the Commission and former Prime Minister of Norway, Gro Harlem Brundtland.

At the heartof sustainable development is the simple idea of ensuring a better quality of life for everyone, now and for generations to come. The Brundtland Report definition is “development which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”.

In other words, when people make decisions about how to use Earth’s resources such as forests, water, minerals, gems, wildlife, etc., they must take into account not only how much of these resources they are using, what processes are used to get these resources and who has access to these resources. Are enough resources going to be left for your grandchildren to use and will the environment be left as you know it today?

Thus, the term ‘sustainable development’ links the concepts of society, ecology, economy and development.

Click image for larger version.

This diagram shows that a holistic view of the environment must include:

  • The biophysical system that provides the life support systems for all life, human and non-human;
  • The social system people living together in social systems;
  • The economic system which provides a means of livelihood (jobs and money) for people; and
  • The political system through which social power is exercised to make policies and decisions about the way social and economic systems use the biophysical environment.

The concept of sustainable development has been around for a number of decades:

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We need sustainable approaches to development because of pressing global realities such as:

  • The rapid growth of the world’s population and its changing distribution.
  • The persistence of widespread poverty.
  • The growing pressures placed on the environment by the worldwide spread of industry and the use of new and more intensive forms of agriculture.
  • The continuing denial of democracy, violations of human rights and the rise of ethnic and religious conflicts and violence, gender inequity.
  • The very notion of ‘development’ itself, what it has come to mean and how it is measured.

The global picture is striking. A quarter of the world’s people has to survive on incomes of less than US$1 a day. A fifth have no access to health care. Huge though the challenge may seem, it is becoming larger: the world’s population will increase by half. This means another three billion people, by 2050.

In the past, economic activity tended to mean more pollution and wasteful use of resources. To clean up the mess has been costly. A damaged environment impairs quality of life and, at worst, may threaten long term economic growth for example, as a result of climate change. Also, far too many of the world’s people have been left behind, excluded from the benefits of development but often suffering from the side effects.

As a result, while the need for development is as great as ever, future development cannot simply follow the model of the past. This is true for the world as a whole, and for every community in every country.

We have to find a new way forward. This is the challenge of sustainable development. For the future, we need ways to achieve economic, social and environmental objectives at the same time, and consider the longer-term implications of decisions.

A deeper reflection on the significance of the emerging consensus on the meanings of sustainable development is provided by UNESCO’s website on Education and Sustainable Development.

Reorienting education for a sustainable future

A Rationale

There is a need to reorientate educational policies, programmes and practices if schools are to help people acquire the important knowledge, skills, values and motivations to be able to contribute to the sustainability transition.

In the context of education, to work towards sustainable development means:

  • To place a system of values and ethics at the centre of society’s concerns.
  • To instil in the minds of all people a conviction of the values for peace, equity, democracy, appropriate development and conservation in such a way as to promote critical reflection and negotiation on the creation of new lifestyles and living patterns.
  • To develop to the maximum the potential of all human beings throughout their lives so that they can achieve self-fulfilment and full self-expression with the collective achievement of a viable future.
  • To encourage lifelong learning, starting at the beginning of life and grounded in life – one based on a passion for a radical transformation of society and a change in the moral character of society.
  • To give priority to future-focused questions, issues and problems and to ways of facing the future with hope and confidence by promoting dialogue among the sectors of society.
  • To advance new forms of knowledge rooted both in scientific rationality and in traditional and popular beliefs and consciousness, drawing on these as a source of humane understanding and a pointer to collective wisdom.
  • To encourage a meeting of disciplines, a linking of knowledge and of expertise, and to render our understanding more integrated and contextualized and so, in turn, to open up new horizons for justice and equality (equity), democracy, conservation and appropriate development.
  • To encourage the refinement of locally based processes of change and of integral community advancement, one not marked by a passive receptivity to or a mindless repetition of homogeneous development models.
  • To encourage new alliances between the State and civil society in promoting citizens’ emancipation mediated by the practice of democratic principles while fully acknowledging the complexities inherent to every human reality.
  • To promote a culture of citizenship and give value to social actors (such as, non-governmental organisations and other sub-groups).
  • To valorize aesthetics, the creative use of the imagination, an openness to risk and flexibility, and a willingness to explore new options.
  • To reach a stage in which the possibility of change and the real desire for change are accompanied by a concerted, active participation in change, at the appropriate time, in favour of a sustainable future for all.

These statements are listed on Resource Sheet 2.1. Distribute a copy to participants.

Allocate each person or pair one statement each and ask them to take 2 – 3 minutes to think of:

  • how education in local schools is currently fulfilling this goal; and
  • how education in local schools might be reoriented to be even better at delivering outcomes related to the goal.

Use Slides 15 – 18 to provide a sample definition of educating for a sustainable future.

Educating for a sustainable future emphasises a holistic, interdisciplinary approach to developing the knowledge and skills needed for building a sustainable future. This vision requires us to reorient education systems, policies and practices in order to empower everyone, young and old, to make decisions and act in culturally appropriate and locally relevant ways to redress the problems that threaten our common future. This involves helping being able to face the future with hope and confidence as a result of having acquired a deep understanding of global realities and their possible solutions and skills for developing and evaluating alternative visions of a sustainable future and working creatively with others to help bring these visions into effect.

Use Slides 19 – 23 to explain that:

  • Teaching and Learning for a Sustainable Future develops teachers’ knowledge and skills for achieving such a reorientation in educational policies, programme and practices.
  • Teaching and Learning for a Sustainable Future is rooted in a new vision of education, a vision that helps students better understand the world in which they live, addressing the complexity and interconnectedness of problems such as poverty, wasteful consumption, environmental degradation, urban decay, population growth, health, conflict and the violation of human rights that threaten our future.
  • Teaching and Learning for a Sustainable Future emphasises a holistic, interdisciplinary approach to developing the knowledge and skills needed for a sustainable future as well as changes in values, behaviour, and lifestyles. This vision requires us to reorient education systems, policies and practices in order to empower everyone, young and old, to make decisions and act in culturally appropriate and locally relevant ways to redress the problems that threaten our common future.
  • Teaching and Learning for a Sustainable Future will enable teachers to plan learning experiences that empower their students to develop and evaluate alternative visions of a sustainable future and to work creatively with others to help bring their visions into effect.
  • There are over 60 million teachers in the world – and each one is a key agent for bringing about the changes in lifestyles and systems we need. For this reason, innovative teacher education is an important part of educating for a sustainable future.
  • The multimedia format of Teaching and Learning for a Sustainable Future means that it can be accessed and used in a great many ways by teachers, student teachers, teacher educators, curriculum developers, education policy makers and authors of educational materials.

Teacher education for sustainability

A challenge to reorientate teacher education was made at the end of the previous activity.

Teaching and Learning for a Sustainable Future illustrates many ways in which this can be achieved. These are based upon student teachers, teachers and other educators studying the programme independently or as part of formal courses in pre- and in-service teacher education.

In particular, Teaching and Learning for a Sustainable Future has been developed to meet the demands of three central trends in teacher education (Slide 24):

The need for teachers to meet high standards of academic rigour.
Teaching and Learning for a Sustainable Future incorporates up-to-date knowledge about key issues related to global realities and sustainable development themes from many disciplines. Since it has been produced by an international body (UNESCO), the programme has been developed through extensive consultation, review and evaluation and is as free as possible from cultural or other biases. Links to numerous Internet sites also provide multiple perspectives on topics and can enhance access to information and critical thinking.
The importance of experience as a basis of all learning.
All the modules in Teaching and Learning for a Sustainable Future are based upon an experiential learning process that invites users to analyse and interpret information in a variety of forms (e.g. text, tables, diagrams, computer games, and linked Internet sites); review new knowledge in the light of current understandings; develop skills in a wide variety of teaching and learning strategies; and adapt and apply new ideas and skills to practical educational tasks.
The need to develop skills for reflective practice.
Reflection is integral to the professional development experiences in Teaching and Learning for a Sustainable Future. A deepening appreciation of Education for Sustainable Development is encouraged by the use of a Learning Journal in every module. Answering questions in the Learning Journal is a practical way of learning. It also provides a record of what has been learnt, ideas and plans for applying these ideas in local situations, and opportunities for on-going professional reflection. Some questions in the Learning Journal may also be used as starting points for student learning material.

Reviewing a module

Computer workshop

Participants work on computers, individually or in pairs, during this activity.

Distribute Resource Sheet 2.2 and ask participants to use the activities as a guide to exploring the way that trends in teacher education are integrated into a module in Teaching and Learning for a Sustainable Future that they have not reviewed previously.

Allocate about one hour for this.

Reflection

After the computer workshop, arrange participants into groups of 5 – 6 people, and ask them to share their answers from Resource Sheet 2.2. Allow 20 minutes for this.

Before they begin their discussions, remind the groups that the modules were reviewed as examples of the ways in which trends in teacher education are reflected in Teaching and Learning for a Sustainable Future.

Ask the groups to share their findings briefly.

Then ask the groups to identify two additional trends in teacher education (especially ones that are relevant or topical in their country) and to prepare a 10 minute report on:

  • the significance of these trends;
  • the extent to which, and how, the modules they reviewed caters for these trends; and
  • how the modules could be adapted to reflect the additional trends more comprehensively.

Allow approximately 30 – 40 minutes for report preparation. Groups could be provided with chart paper or overhead projector transparencies to summarise their reports.

Invite groups to make their reports.

Conclude by identifying common themes and differences across the reports and the implications of these for using Teaching and Learning for a Sustainable Future in teacher edcuation.