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Activist Learning for Sustainability: A Pedagogy for Change

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Abstract

This chapter explores the concept of “activist learning for sustainability” and the role of activism and related pedagogies and the relationship to education for sustainable development (ESD). The chapter will reflect on a case study of student-led activism: the initiation of a “sustainable student house” devised and developed by students to allow them to “live what they are learning” and educate other students about sustainable lifestyles. Through reflections from this case this chapter explores: the relationship between the formal, informal, and hidden curricula in inspiring and supporting student activist learning for sustainability; some of the challenges of student-led activist projects, such as the sometimes-difficult relationships between students and university staff, and tensions between the students’ private and public spheres of life at university; and student learning as activists for sustainability. The chapter concludes with recommendations for ESD practitioners engaged in the development of activist learning opportunities.

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Collaborative learning continues to be an area that is increasingly receiving attention in academic fields. This is because group-based or cooperative learning has many benefits to individual student learning (Slavin, 1996). In addition, group work and group assessment, have, over the past few years, become integral components of many undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in the UK and all over the world (Houldsworth & Mathews, 2000). The primary focus of this study is to explore the feelings and experience of students regarding group work and group assessment in Higher Education (HE). The study is exploratory and descriptive based on both quantitative and qualitative approach. Accordingly, the findings reported here are based on a survey and a focus group with some final year tourism and hospitality students (n = 72) at the University of Wolverhampton. Interestingly, students felt that group work is a method that significantly fosters the development of a wider breadth of knowledge through discussion, clarification of ideas, and evaluation of others' ideas. On the other hand, students consider “poor communication” and “poor attendance at group meetings” as the main challenges they face when working within a group. Also, students identified “dedicated assignment seminars” as the most effective tool, which could be used to improve the effectiveness of group work. In conclusion, this study reinforces the findings of previous research into group work suggesting that the experience is generally positive for students. Results are discussed in the context of current theoretical and empirical work on group-based learning. Education implications and areas for further research are also discussed.
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The purpose of the study is to determine student views of the influence of the Eco Education Urban Stewards program's impact on their involvement in community environmental initiatives. Eco Education is a non-profit organization in St. Paul that facilitates an urban, environmental, year-long science curriculum delivered in middle schools in Minnesota. The year-long program ends with an urban, environmental service-learning project. Ten high school students from the Inter District Downtown School who had completed Urban Stewards in middle school took a survey and were interviewed and compared with ten high school students who had a more traditional middle school science experience. Semi-structured oral interviews were conducted with each student. Transcriptions of the interviews were analyzed and compared to the survey results. The survey results were tabulated and given numerical values to compare the Eco Education and non-Eco Education students. Common themes and differences were discovered when comparing the survey results and interview transcriptions of the two groups. Urban Stewards students demonstrated more awareness of environmental issues, concerns and community projects but not by a significant amount.
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The paper hypothesises that student learning about sustainable development (SD) might usefully be configured within a broad framework combining formal, informal and campus curriculum. Student learning about sustainable development is a form of education for sustainable development (ESD), a term which has many definitions and interpretations. In this paper we refer to both student learning about SD (referring to multiple influences, actions and levels of engagement) and ESD as an overarching formal term (in our work based upon the UNESCO framework for ESD). The term campus sustainability is used when the focus of learning and engagement is based upon or designed around campus‐focused projects and activities. We discuss why we believe our broad framework approach is useful and illustrate the practical development of some of these ideas through the early work of our institutional Ecoversity project. Our approach requires bringing together and meshing widely disparate institutional processes and drivers to support wide and multiple levels of student learning about SD. Such institution‐wide engagement requires that a number of key ‘enablers’ are developed, including: academic policy of ESD and SD; academic school engagement with ESD and SD including staff development and training; strategically focused processes and projects around the informal curriculum; and campus management practises and processes that support open and transparent decision‐making processes and treat all campus projects as educational opportunities. We describe some of the early achievements from our cross institutional ESD projects and reflect on some key learning points.
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A discussion of available ways of analysing and specifying educational objectives shows that none is adequate for considering professional education. A new taxonomy of educational objectives designed to meet this need is described. The classification is based on a description of personal attributes under the main headings: knowledge, skill and personal qualities. The application of the taxonomy to the analysis and design of curricula is discussed together with implications for learning experiences and assessment. It is suggested that the taxonomy could have applications in other areas of education as an aid to clarity of thought about educational objectives.
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This article provides educators at all levels with a theoretical rationale for place-conscious education; it also discusses pedagogical pathways, and institutional challenges, to place-consciousness. Drawing on insights from phenomenology, critical geography, bioregionalism, ecofeminism, and other place-conscious traditions, the author gathers diverse perspectives on “place” to demonstrate the profoundly pedagogical nature of human experience with places. Five “dimensions of place” are described that can shape the development of a socio-ecological, place-conscious education: (a) the perceptual, (b) the sociological, (c) the ideological, (d) the political, and (e) the ecological. After discussing these, the author reframes several place-conscious educational traditions. The article concludes with an analysis of the possibilities for place-conscious education in an era that defines institutional accountability by standards and testing.