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Teaching and Learning Practices that Promote Sustainable Development and Active Citizenship

Alexandra Ataíde 1

 

Saúde, Sandra; Raposo, Albertina; Pereira, Nuno; Rodrigues, Ana Isabel (2021). Teaching and Learning Practices that Promote Sustainable Development and Active Citizenship. Pennsylvania, USA: IGI Global.

 

What happens when editors and researchers decide to bring together Education, Sustainability and Global Citizenship in the same book?

Amazing things may happen indeed to those who read "Teaching and Learning Practices that Promote Sustainable Development and Active Citizenship". At least a balsam of knowledge and a compelling inspiration to change-making are certain. Maria Albertina Raposo, Nuno Pereira, Sandra Saúde and Ana Isabel Rodrigues wisely prepared a powerful collection of scientific studies and guide us throughout three main sections: 1) Empowering Education for Global and Critical Citizenship; 2) Empowering Education for a Sustainable World; and 3) Empowering Sustainability: Examples of Educational Practices.

When opening this book, readers may feel they are travelling. Along the pages, somehow readers are transported to Canada, Brazil, Portugal, Spain, Ireland, the Netherlands, Mexico, Turkey, Belgium, South Africa, Germany, and Rwanda. In fact, they do travel the world through studies and projects conceived by researchers from different countries. This tour translates the importance of interculturality when approaching Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) and Education for Global Citizenship (EGC).

In an interesting approach, two big questions connect three sections and harmoniously relate 15 chapters inside this inspiring book: How may Education contribute to Global Citizenship and to a more sustainable world? What challenges are there in this new normal? When turning the pages, readers will discover pertinent content and initiatives such as educational and civic collectives, social labs, contributing to projects’ transformation focused on pedagogic and learning practices, to attain Sustainable Development and active citizenship.

Below are the three main sections, ready to be scrolled down in a zapping mode, which will certainly provoke some inspiration towards enhancing Sustainable Development and citizenship through education.

 

1. Empowering Education for Global and Critical Citizenship

When entering the section titled “Empowering Education for Global and Critical Citizenship”, the main topic that crosses chapters focuses on the educational policies and educational changes needed to foster global citizenship. Hence, this first section presents relevant learning and educational practices throughout the six following chapters.

Opening the first chapter “Global Citizenship Education and Sustainability Otherwise”, readers get to acknowledge different educational approaches and frameworks developed by Gesturing Towards Decolonial Futures (GTDF) collective, which works on GCE and alongside several Indigenous communities. “House of Modernity”, “BUS” and “Earth’s CARE” are GCE theoretical and pedagogical models shared by the authors as instruments to foster global and critical citizenship educational contexts.

Researchers provide, in the second chapter, the results of an original survey on the concept, visions and actions connected to “development” and pertinent insights about Global Citizenship Education. The results reveal that most respondents identify themselves with “alternative-critical views” of “development” as opposed to “conventional understandings”.

When working on Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and ethical pedagogy with teachers, they reveal themselves inspired and committed to promote ethical pedagogical approaches to global issues, such as anti-racist pedagogies, in the classroom. However, they need spaces, contexts, and resources to research, reflect, experiment, and learn together, as well as effective strategies to combine theory and practice. These are main findings of a participatory research project with secondary teachers in England, Finland, and Sweden, presented in the third chapter, whereby researchers recommend wider classroom practices to foster a pedagogical culture of ethical global issues at school.  

Which sustainable themes, pedagogical strategies, and key competences for Sustainable Development (SD), are more representative in Educational practices? The fourth chapter comprises a systematic review where researchers analysed pedagogical practices of ESD and Global Citizenship in early childhood, and in school context. The study highlights as crucial that ESD addresses skills and values to the main pillars of SD: environment, economy, society, which are connected by the pillar of culture. Researchers propose a holistic understanding and educational practices of SD, to avoid atomization on approaching SD at school.

 In chapter 5, a theoretical model for Global Citizenship Education (GCE) applied to the English as Foreign Language (EFL) curriculum is created and proposed by researchers, who carried out a case study to accomplish this. The pedagogical framework suggests several active and student-centred learning approaches to develop six different competencies: respect for diversity and empathy; communication and critical thinking; and collaboration and social responsibility. The pedagogical model for GCE in the EFL classroom also offers a process to facilitate students’ learning in four steps: learn-think-feel-act. This study emphasizes that effective guidelines can help teachers design and improve curriculum, through active and transformative pedagogical approaches.

Two intercity Entrepreneurship Education projects carried out in Portugal, during the past eight years, are described in the 6th chapter. Established on project-based approaches and learning-by-doing methodology, the projects have different stages, including teachers’ and other educational professionals’ training and synergies with local communities. The projects highlight entrepreneurship as a competence for life and fundamental to the development of active and autonomous citizens. This entrepreneurship program empowers educators as agents of change and facilitators of students’ preparation for their working/active lives, through knowledge development and training of competencies such as creativity, proactivity, teamwork, planning and action, and problem-solving. Researchers underline entrepreneurship as key part of Citizenship Education and a path to Sustainable Development.

 

2. Empowering Education for a Sustainable World

To achieve a profound and systemic change in education, there are strategic elements that must be considered, and these are expounded in the 7th chapter: curriculum, organisation of students and teachers, and the design of educational spaces. The author, Pepe Menéndez, is one of the coordinators of Horizon 2020, an internationally recognised and vanguard educational project by Jesuïtes Educació.  The project has been implementing deep transformations in learning, with concrete educational approaches and practices focused on a new purpose: the student’s life project. Along this chapter, the reader can revisit the schools’ renovating movements since the 19th century; the assessment types, such as formative and accrediting, as well as various assessment modalities developed in the last 20 years; and the view of pedagogical proposals as problems, challenges, and project-based methodologies.

The final remark is given to leaders and teachers: personal commitment to change, perseverance and professional cohesion, are the main ingredients to a new education era – and nothing will be the same anymore. 

Significant and powerful questions are raised in the chapter eight. How should Development Education (DE) respond to COVID-19? How can the formal education system respond to the challenge of Neoliberalism? What contributions can DE make to mitigate the climate crisis and to address complex problems, such as poverty and inequality? The researcher starts highlighting Paulo Freire’s revolutionary pedagogy and the impact of DE as a methodology to learn, interpret and act in the world. DE supports a more holistic and global approach to the curriculum, fostering a cross-curricular learning, active, collaborative, and meaningful pedagogical methodologies. This chapter is also an opportunity to reflect on Neoliberalism ideology and the setback from public interests. The author Stephen McCloskey upholds that before COVID-19 and climate, health, social, economic, multilevel challenges, a strong role of the Development Education sector is required to extend pedagogy and restore democracy, accountability, and social justice. 

The 9th chapter illustrates, through MARGov project, how Social Labs (SL) can change attitudes and behaviours towards social challenges and promote socio-ecological literacy citizenship. Before complex problems and uncertainty, citizens may cocreate joint answers and implement adequate solutions together through collaborative processes and spaces like Social Labs. Collective intelligence, dialogue among stakeholders, sometimes with opposite positions, sociability, trust, and participation in decisions, which impact community life and public policies, are identified as SL strengths. Yet, the slow rhythm, the ambiguity inherent to collaborative processes, and the lack of instant impressive results, are taken as apparent weaknesses. MARGov discloses evidence of participants’ which shows social-ecological knowledge expansion, developed active citizenship and will to address real-life changes in community, collectively. The case study reveals that collaboration, social learning and transdisciplinary processes can have a crucial role in a more sustainable society.

When opening the next chapter, the main theme is the Sustainable Entrepreneurial Thinking (SET) module, a program implemented in the Hague university of Applied Sciences, in the Netherlands, that allows bachelor students to adopt the mind-set of a sustainable entrepreneur and approach a societal challenge. Along this learning-by-doing process, properly described in chapter 10, the participants train global competencies while taking on a challenge, connected to one or more Sustainable Development Goals, and develop innovative entrepreneurial solutions to tackle it. The SET module is shared as an example of how entrepreneurship thinking may be a strong and efficient ally of Sustainable Development. Awareness and involvement occur when students understand their agency in any situation and that they are part of the change we need. “You are not stuck in traffic, you are traffic.”

 

3. Empowering Sustainability: Examples of Educational Practices

What is the role of management education in addressing societal challenges? In the 11th chapter, the researcher stresses that higher education institutions have a vital role to play in creating learning and development contexts for the sustainability competency, towards a more equitable and just economy. The author proposes a pathway for the development of the sustainability competency, with an iteration of objectives with affective and cognitive domains, and describes the stages, sample practices and teaching techniques to guide students on addressing real life situations, on the Corporate Sustainability course, an MBA’s curricula program. Inside this chapter, different pedagogic techniques and active methodologies are expanded and suggested: problem-based learning; case method; as well as engaging business leaders and members of an expert panel, and several learning experiences, such as a personal sustainability plan.

How might we involve students and reinforce active citizenship and governance systems? As revealed in chapter 12, the “We Propose” Project (PNP) is an appealing case study, that began in the Institute of Geography and Spatial Planning at University of Lisbon and which was developed with a constructivist learning approach: through civic and geographic education, secondary students analysed and put forward solutions for problems identified in the communities to which they belong. Researchers shared the main results of five years of the project, which include engaging young people in civic participation and boosting territorial culture. Additionally, the authors disclose that the project is in process of international expansion to Latin American countries.

In the digital era we live in, there is still lack of diversity in technology and a gender gap problem with women’s underrepresentation across the information and communication technology (ICT) jobs, as well as diminished participation by women in coding. In chapter 12, researchers present a relevant a study where code is identified as a tool to repair the gender gap. The research analyses the user’s reactions to the activities on Girls who Code, Girls Develop It and Black Girls Code, Facebook pages. The results reveal that the actions taken on these Facebook pages help girls learn coding, increase their motivation, and raise their interest in following possible careers in the ICT. This study also highlights that code, combined with challenging stereotypes and social support mechanisms, may gain a more effective role in closing the gender gap.

Community-centred practices play an essential role in enhancing the contribution of occupational therapists to community development. The value of occupational therapy in addressing community issues and endeavouring for Sustainable Development is emphasized in chapter 13, which presents a module to prepare students to work in community development processes, based on four case studies in four different countries, Belgium, Germany, South Africa, and Brazil. These projects demonstrate that community partnerships and participatory approaches are golden keys to tackle problems and to co-create the best sustainable solutions. 

The book comes to an end with editors and researchers wisely bringing together education and learning practices, where sustainability, Global Citizenship, Outdoor Education Practices (OEP) and changing the learning space, take the spotlight. The authors share the effects of these on both teachers and students, and offer guidelines established by teachers and researchers, resultant of an intervention that increased the incorporation of OEP in the teaching-learning process. Sustainable childhood behaviours in early childhood are likely to be empowered with OEP. According to the early childhood teachers, who participated in the project, OEP has a great educational value: increased children’s motivation, developed creativity, fostered motor development, improved coexistence, collaboration, and assimilation of learning. 

All along this reading journey, education is clearly recognised as a crucial field to empower youngsters, educators, and citizens in general, as changemakers towards a sustainable world. Scientific knowledge, ESD practices and EGC approaches, bring forward awareness about the countless possibilities to come closer to the world we want. Therefore, this book is an invitation to acknowledge different studies, projects and methodologies on active citizenship and sustainability, as well as a bold invitation to get moved by them.