Author(s):Anna Mogren (presenting), Niklas Gericke

Conference:ECER 2015, Education and Transition

Network:30. Environmental and Sustainability Education Research (ESER)


Session Information

30 SES 06 A, ESE Policy and Implementation

Paper Session


Room:X. Előadó [C]

Chair:Jutta Nikel


The role of school organization in ESD implementation.

This study investigates empirically proved ways of implementing ESD successfully at multiple school organizational levels. Transformative approaches of ESD implementation are focused which in research has been suggested fruitful and effective ways of implementing ESD (Wals, Schwarzin 2012).

There is a lack of research within the ESD field and gaps to be filled about the connection between organizing schools and ESD implementation (Nikel, Lowe 2010).  This study is carried out within a larger project of ESD implementation studies. Data used in this study related to school leadership level is compared to teacher statements about how school development is conducted at the same schools. The study will answer the questions: 1) What characterizes schools with a leardership supporting a high degree of ESD transformative implementation?and 2) Are transformative ESD-implementation strategies at school leader level reflected in teachers’ conceptions of school development.

This research design also involves data from the student level not yet analyzed. This multilevel approach links to the term ESD Whole institutional approach (WIA), WIA that is launched in the policy document of Global Action programme by UNESCO 2014 as a forward prescribed action for successful ESD implementation. The term WIA describes how school organizations use ESD qualities to become transformative organizations promoting ESD issues in both policy and practice (Hargreaves 2008). 

Qualities in transformative ESD implementation distinguish from qualities in transmissive  ESD implementation. The gap between these two ESD implementation strategies can be described by qualities related to improve schools in transmissive ESD implementation to  qualities  used to develop schools in transformative ESD implementation (Hargreaves 2008).   Improving schools is done by adding new educational content and developing schools is done by changing educational practice (Martin, Dillon et al. 2013).


On school leadership level  three different strategies to implement transformative ESD are earlier in this study identified through studies about enhanced quality criteria. The strategies are Internal holistic idea, External holistic idea and a WIA. The internal holistic idea focus on the qualities linked to inner relations between principal, teachers and students. Student centred activities and collaborative learning are key qualities. The external holistic idea builds on qualities expressing strong proactive leadership and a close relation to the local stakeholders. The WIA strategy is a combination of the two earlier described implementation strategies (internal as well as external holistic idea) with focus on student centred activates and a close relationship to society.

A theoretical framework of school development established by (Scherp and  Scherp (2007)  that has the ability to describe how different parts of the school organization react to stimuli of qualities used at both school leadership level and teacher level was selected as an analytical tool for this study. This framework is designed to detect school development processes and is in this study used to understand how ESD implementation strategies effect the school organization. High quality in school organization is in this framework classified either as structural or changeable quality perspectives. In an organisation that is dominated by changeable qualities changes within and without school are seen as fruitful opportunities to develop and adopt the teaching and learning system of the school in order to meet new demands. In an organisation dominated by structural qualities, emphasize is on keeping harmony and stability within the organisation in order to obtain long term stability, changes are more seen as disturbances to avoid or remedy.   

ESD implementation is built from many traditions, value systems and practices thus express a variety of structural and changeable qualities in education (Bourn 2008, Sterling 2007, Öhman, Öhman 2012, Knutsson 2011). 


In this study two different datasets were used related to different levels of school organization. The main dataset is collected at the school leader level by interviews with principals. The complementing dataset is based on a questionnaire study with teachers at the same schools.
First ESD schools from a Swedish nationwide sample were identified. This was done by investigating the schools ESD activity in two national ESD award systems and two national databases holding records of ESD schools. From the databases the 10 most active ESD schools were selected. The sample was validated by interviewing local school personal and other ESD stakeholders.

In the first data collection semi structured interviews were conducted with 14 principals. One from each of the selected ESD-school. However there had been recent change of principal in four of the schools and we interviewed both, the new as well as former principal, to establish how these schools worked over a longer time period. The main objective for the interviews was to collect data about the way principals choose to organize their schools in relation to their perception of high quality in education.

During the interviews concept maps were constructed by the researcher based on the interviewees’ statements. The concept maps held information of which quality criteria that were highlighted by different schools, and the argumentation for those choices. Each principal confirmed the trustworthiness of the concept map after the interviews.

Qualitative data in the form of concept maps were translated into quantitative data by using an assessment system in which each quality criteria were given a score depending on the emphasis given by the principal. The scores separate transmissive and transformative statements by principals.
The complementing datasets on the teacher level at selected ESD schools consist of a survey about school development measuring the teachers structural or changeable quality perspectives. This survey was developed and used within a larger school development project in Sweden (Scherp 2013). The results from the survey instrument of teachers working at schools showing transformative ESD implementation were then compared to a general population (n=210) of teachers in order to search for differences between schools implementing transformative ESD to a high degree and general schools in Sweden.
The numerical data from the two datasets were processed statistically in the computer programme Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS). SPSS is used to find patterns of clusters, co-variations and means of interest.

Expected Outcomes

From our analysis we can see that principals emphasizing an ESD transformative implementation also hold holistic ides about school organization. Depending on what implementation strategy that been emphasized by the school principals: internal holistic idea, external holistic idea or WIA, the strategy co-varies with the degree of transformative ESD implementation. The principals using the WIA-school strategy emphasized to a higher degree ESD-transformative implementation qualities in comparison to principals working according to the other two strategies (internal holistic idea, external holistic idea).

The schools in which principals emphasize a high degree of transformative ESD implementation also showed a strong emphasis towards a changeable school development strategy. It was expressed by principals as a bottom up perspective of organizing schools where collaboration, critical perspectives and more than one solution to problems is possible in the creation of quality in education. The results from the teacher questionnaire were in line with the school leader results, also giving significant higher mean values for statements according to a changeable strategy, i.e. answers at these schools show a stronger relatedness and use of changeable logics in school development than general schools (from the database). Teachers at these schools find the other, structural perspectives such as schedules, service distributions and resource allocation as a greater barrier for school development than schools in general.
The study has further identified areas where schools implementing transformative ESD to a high degree differ compared to other schools also by teacher validating reflections about school development. These areas are for example: organizing in-service training, relation to external actors, professional staff security, etc.
The analyses for student outcome that could further validate these findings is work in process and only tentatively mentioned within this proposal.


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Author Information

Anna Mogren (presenting)
Karlstad University
Faculty of Health, Science and Technology
Niklas Gericke
Karlstad University, Sweden