Conference Agenda

Overview and details of the sessions of this conference. Please select a date or location to show only sessions at that day or location. Please select a single session for detailed view (with abstracts and downloads if available).

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Session Overview
30 SES 12 B: Transformative learning and ESE
Thursday, 24/Aug/2023:
3:30pm - 5:00pm

Session Chair: Arjen Wals
Location: Hetherington, 133 [Floor 1]

Capacity: 40 persons

Paper Session

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30. Environmental and Sustainability Education Research (ESER)

ESD-facilitators’ Conditions and Functions as Sustainability Change Agents

Teresa Berglund, Niklas Gericke, Anette Forssten Seiser, Anna Mogren, Daniel Olsson

Karlstad university, Sweden

Presenting Author: Berglund, Teresa

This study seeks to investigate the experiences of teachers working as ESD-facilitators within a whole school approach project designed to implement education for sustainable development (ESD) in their schools. The program activities included school leaders, teachers, and ESD- facilitators. During a period of three school years, five schools in a municipality in Sweden took part in order to integrate ESD in their organization and teaching practice. The ESD-facilitators took part in the design of the development process, workshop activities and content, and facilitated each school’s internal work. This study aims to identify in what ways ESD-facilitators function as sustainability change agents and how contextual factors might contribute to success or form hindrances in their work.

The project was designed based on teachers’ learning and collaborative and reflexive work (Desimone, 2009). The purpose was to direct the development work of the schools towards a whole school approach (Mogren et al. 2019), meaning that ESD is fully integrated in the local curriculum. The main areas of development were to increase interdisciplinary teaching with focus on ESD as holistic pedagogical idea, and that ESD should permeate the work in all levels of the internal and external organization of the school (Sund & Lysgaard, 2013), implying that the different actors in the school and its societal context (students, teachers, school leaders and the outer society) work towards sustainability (Mogren et al., 2019). An additional aim was to integrate pluralistic approaches in the teachers’ classroom practice.

The project included two project leaders, who also participated as researchers in the project. Together with the school leaders and ESD-facilitators, they took a leading role in the development of the project, which included joint seminars, and meetings between project leaders and a) school leaders (across schools), b) school leaders and facilitators (within schools), and c) facilitators (across schools). The ESD-facilitators were intended to function as a link between school leader, project leaders and the teaching staff. They were supposed to support the teacher work teams in their discussions and implementation work with transforming ESD principles into practice.

A recent study by Van Poeck et al. (2017) explored different change agent roles by mapping the different ways in which change agents actively contribute to sustainability. In relation to different roles, various types of learning is being made possible. The authors identified four types of change agents that position themselves in different ways along the two axes of personal detachment vs. personal involvement, and instrumental vs. open-ended approaches (to change and learning). This study investigates the views and practices of the ESD-facilitators in relation to these two dimensions. Thus, different change agent positions may be taken.

The ESD-facilitators have a middle leading role in their schools, which means that they enact leading practices from a position in between the teaching staff and the school leader (Grootenboer, Edwards-Groves & Rönnerman, 2015). There is limited research focusing on practitioners who facilitate processes of professional development (Perry & Boylan, 2018). Thus, little is known about how facilitators, and particularly those who facilitate a whole school approach to ESD, could be supported to carry out their role and tasks in an effective way, and what adequate conditions and arrangements for this might be. Taken together, this implies a gap in current knowledge about ESD implementation strategies, which this study aims to help bridging.

The research questions guiding the research are twofold: in the ESD-facilitators’ descriptions of their roles, functions and practices;

- What kinds of sustainability change agent roles can be identified?

- What contextual factors are experienced as successful and/or hindering?

Methodology, Methods, Research Instruments or Sources Used
After the project ended, interviews were carried out between November 2020 and April 2021 with seven ESD-facilitators from five different schools. Two of the schools had appointed two facilitators, who either focused on different programs (in upper secondary school) or on different levels in compulsory school (primary or secondary level).
The interviews followed a semi-structured approach (Bryman, 2018) and included pre-defined areas concerning the ESD-facilitators’ view on: a) the long term purposes and goals of the project, b) in what ways they viewed their role in the development work in their school, and c) their experiences of factors that were of central importance in order for them to be able to perform their task effectively. Their responses were followed up by the interviewer in a flexible manner.
The analysis of data followed a multi-step process. The three parts above constitute the basis for the first step of the analysis, which was performed inductively and followed a broad approach to data driven thematic analysis (Braun & Clarke, 2006). The next step was analyzed deductively, based on the typology of sustainability change agents by Van Poeck et al. (2017). In this step, the utterances connected to the ESD-facilitators’ role in the development work, together with utterances concerning their view of long-term purposes and goals of the project, were analyzed in relation to the four different types of sustainability change agents in the typology. The analysis concerning their role focused mainly on the two dimensions identified as open-ended or instrumental, and personal detachment vs. -involvement. Utterances were identified that could be associated with a specific role description under the four ideal types of change agents. Moreover, utterances of how they viewed the purpose and goal of the ESD development work were analyzed, mainly connected to how different types of change agents may enable different forms of learning (Van Poeck et al., 2017). However, research on middle leading practices as well as research of sustainability change agents emphasizes that roles and practices should be interpreted in relation to the context they are enacted within (Grootenboer, Edwards-Groves & Rönnerman, 2015; Van Poeck et al., 2017). Therefore, the analysis also focused on identifying how different contextual factors affect and enable the roles and practices of the ESD-facilitators. Thus, the final step is to look for relationships between expressed purposes and goals, roles, and what factors are experienced as promoting and/or hindering their role and mission.

Conclusions, Expected Outcomes or Findings
The analysis indicates that teachers struggle with transforming ESD theory into teaching practice. The school culture has great impact on the readiness of teacher teams to engage in transformation of their teaching. The ESD-facilitator’ functions and practices are affected by the school culture and whether teacher teams are well functioning or not in terms of collaborative work.
All the four roles in the typology (Van Poeck et al., 2017) were identified in their expressions, and different contextual factors were emphasized as either promoting or hindering their functions. Clear support and leadership from the school leader and the presence of a well-defined long term goal was important to provide direction and legitimize the ESD-facilitator role in schools where a broad anchoring of ESD among the staff was missing. Moreover, roles and processes became more open-ended in schools where there was room for collaborative work and reflexive discussions. In those schools where the culture encouraged collaborative work and shared agency, the ESD-facilitators pointed out their functions in mediating the process in terms of initiator, facilitator, mobilizer and/or awareness raiser (ibid.). When there was little space for collaborative work, or the culture was hindering it, the ESD-facilitator role and approach became more instrumental and it became harder to create agency and integrate ESD as a holistic pedagogical idea (see Mogren et al. 2019) among the community of teachers. Those facilitators emphasized their functions in terms of experts, councellors, managers, solution providers and exemplars (Ibid.).
A challenge was how to transform ESD theories, which the facilitators expressed as abstract and far from everyday teaching, into concrete practice. In the school where a collaborative culture was present, a way to solve this was to start doing by daring to explore new ways of teaching, and then evaluate in a collaborative, open and reflexive manner.

Braun, V., & Clarke, V. (2006). Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative research in psychology, 3(2), 77-101.
Bryman, A. (2018). Samhällsvetenskapliga metoder.(tredje upplagan). Liber.
Desimone, L. M. (2009). Improving impact studies of teachers’ professional development: Toward better conceptualizations and measures. Educational researcher, 38(3), 181-199.
Grootenboer, P.,  Edwards-Groves, C., & Rönnerman, K. (2015). Leading practice development: voices from the middle, Professional Development in Education, 41(3), 508-526, DOI: 10.1080/19415257.2014.924985
Mogren, A., Gericke, N., & Scherp, H.-Å. (2019). Whole school approaches to education for sustainable development: a model that links to school improvement. Environmental Education Research, 25(4), 508-531.
Perry, E., & Boylan, M. (2018). Developing the developers: supporting and researching the learning of professional development facilitators. Professional development in education, 44(2), 254-271.
Sund, P., & Lysgaard, J. G. (2013). Reclaim “education” in environmental and sustainability education research. Sustainability, 5(4), 1598-1616.
Van Poeck, K., Læssøe, J., & Block, T. (2017). An exploration of sustainability change agents as facilitators of nonformal learning: Mapping a moving and intertwined landscape. Ecology and Society, 22(2).

30. Environmental and Sustainability Education Research (ESER)

Reverse Pedagogical Relationships: Developing intergenerational practices for transformational learning for the climate

Anette Mansikka-aho1, Rosamund Portus2

1Tampereen yliopisto, Finland; 2University of the West of England Bristol

Presenting Author: Mansikka-aho, Anette

Young people today have only ever known a world defined by climate and environmental crisis. Accordingly, studies show that young people are not only engaging with climate knowledge, but are having to navigate new emotional challenges (Hickman et al., 2021; Beaumont, 2021). Older generations therefore have a responsibility to support younger generations to navigate these ongoing climate issues. Many young people are already responding to these emotional challenges by ‘problem-focused coping’, such as trying to use their personal agency to contribute to actions which mitigate climate change (Ojala 2012). As such, we critically need to foster opportunities for two-way relationships of learning which allow for older generations to learn from the experiences, perspectives, and knowledge of young people. Our paper therefore considers opportunities for intergenerational interaction through ‘reverse pedagogical relationships’, which reverses the typical teacher or parent/carer-led style of learning.

The core aim of the study we present is to further develop the concept of reverse pedagogical relationship and to demonstrate its research value. Through doing so, we identify the strengths and challenges of reverse pedagogical relationship in contributing to transformational learning for climate change engagement. The objectives of this study are underpinned by the following two research questions: 1) How do young people perceive the opportunities and challenges of reverse pedagogical relationships? 2) How are the possibilities of reverse pedagogical relationships discursively constructed in young people's discourse in relation to climate agency?

Drawing on data from focus groups (six groups of 27 students) with Finnish young people (aged 15-18) we examine their experiences and thoughts on reverse pedagogical relationships. Since power is manifested in the pedagogical relationship and reverse pedagogy challenges this balance of power, we analysed this through a Foucauldian discourse analysis. By this, we mean we followed in the footsteps of Heikkinen, Silvonen and Simola (1999) and Räisänen (2014) to analyse the data through examining dimensions of subjectivity, power and knowledge. Through presenting our results, we show how these three dimensions are at once distinct and intertwined with each other.

The study we present is part of a larger project, called ‘Challenging the Climate Crisis: Children’s Agency to Tackle Policy Underpinned by Learning for Transformation’ (CCC-Catapult). This project examines young people’s experiences of and sense of agency in the climate crisis, with a particular focus on climate education and policy-making. As the project engages with a youth-focused co-productive process, the focus group questions for this study have been co-developed with 15–18-year-olds living in Tampere, as well as Bristol (UK) and Galway (Ireland).

Methodology, Methods, Research Instruments or Sources Used
As the aim of our research was to generate perspectives from a group of individuals with a shared connection, in this instance this being age and educational status (Herrman, 2017), we gathered data through conducting focus groups with groups of between three to six students between the ages of 15-18, in total 27 students. Our use of focus groups, which are broadly defined as 'an informal discussion among selected individuals about specific topics' (Becket al., 1986, p. 73), reflected our aim to encourage young people to speak honestly about their experiences around climate education and learning. Examples of the interview questions include: what is your role in informing older and/or younger generations on issues relating to climate change; what are your experiences of climate education in school; and, how do you think climate change education should be taught in the future?

To encourage students to speak openly about their experiences, and feel comfortable informally engaging with one another, we sought to work with groups of students who have a previous connection with one another. We therefore recruited participants through working with schools across the Tampere region, who facilitated our access to classes of students. Most of the focus groups took place within school environments and one at their hobby’s environment. The focus groups were conducted in April 2022, and lasted between 30 to 55 minutes.

Once the focus group was transcribed, we thematically analysed the data. In coding our research, we followed a ‘theoretical’ thematic analysis approach (Braun & Clarke, 2006, p. 84). This involves the researchers developing a set of pre-determined themes, and then coding the qualitative data accordingly. Our reason for coding in this way was thus twofold: firstly, the researcher’s close connection with the data, as the people who led the focus group sessions and transcribed the data, allowed for a relative degree of prior understanding about the themes present in the data; second, our interest was in very specific aspects of a much larger data set. Focusing in on pre-determined, particularly relevant themes enabled us to pinpoint specific knowledge contained within a much larger dataset. To assure ‘rigor and trustworthiness’ in the dataset (Nowell et al., 2017), the coded dataset was examined by multiple researchers.

Conclusions, Expected Outcomes or Findings
We examined the data through Foucauldian discourse analysis and through dimensions of subjectivity, power and knowledge.  

On the subjectivity dimension our analysis revealed that young people have three ways of subjectivation. The first type wants to be obedient to their parents or educators, while the second type secretly resists the opinions of older generations. The third type one has more agency in their resistance: they place themselves into the role of the educator.

On the power dimension we analysed how young people talk about their opportunities to educate their parents and educators. The first of the three types did not see a need for reverse pedagogy and the second type did not see possibilities for it. However, the third type saw the need and the possibilities as well.

In the knowledge dimension we considered how they understood the epistemic authority in the pedagogical relationships. The first type saw the educator or parent as a gatekeeper of the knowledge. In addition to this belief, the second type considers that the youth is receiving new information. While they did not see this new information could question teachers’ or parents’ knowledge, the third type though this is exactly the reason why youth have the epistemic authority.

Our findings reveal that, in light of the obstacles which traditionally hinder such a pedagogical relationship, there is a need to develop reverse pedagogy methods and consider what support both younger and older people require to engage in such relationships. Our paper argues that reverse pedagogical relationships are unparalleled for empowering young people; we show how this approach offers an opportunity to develop young people’s agency whilst not requiring them to be in adult dominated situations, thus supporting them to express their views and learn from one another as they live through a time of climate emergency.

Beaumont, P. (2021). Young people more optimistic about the world than older generations – Unicef. [Online]. The Guardian. Available:  

Beck, L., Trombetta, W. and Share, S. (1986). Using focus group sessions before decisions are made. North Carolina Medica/Journal, 47(2), 73-74.  

Braun, V. & Clarke, V. (2006) Using thematic analysis in psychology, Qualitative Research in Psychology, 3:2, 77-101, DOI: 10.1191/1478088706qp063oa

Heikkinen, S., Silvonen, J., & Simola, H. (1999). Technologies of Truth: peeling Foucault's triangular onion. Discourse: studies in the cultural politics of education, 20(1), 141-157.

Herrman, A. R. (2017). Focus Groups. In: The SAGE Encyclopedia of Communication Research Methods. Edited by: Mike Allen.  

Hickman, C., Marks, E., Pihkala, P., Clayton, S., Lewandowski, R. E., Mayall, E. E., ... & van Susteren, L. (2021). Climate anxiety in children and young people and their beliefs about government responses to climate change: a global survey. The Lancet Planetary Health, 5(12), e863-e873.

Nowell, L. S., Norris, J. M., White, D. E., & Moules, N. J. (2017). Thematic analysis: Striving to meet the trustworthiness criteria. International journal of qualitative methods, 16(1), 1609406917733847.

Ojala, M. (2012). Regulating Worry, Promoting Hope: How Do Children, Adolescents, and Young Adults Cope with Climate Change?. International Journal of Environmental and Science Education, 7(4), 537-561.

Räisänen, M. (2014). Opettajat ja koulutuspolitiikka. Opetusalan ammattijärjestö ja Demokraattiset koulutyöntekijät-yhdistys peruskoulukauden koulutuspolitiikassa.

Williams, S & Portus, R. (2022). ‘Through their Eyes and Ears’: Creating New Knowledge for Climate Education through Co-productive Practices. Challenges for Environmental and Sustainability Education Research in Times of Climate Crisis.

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