Author(s):Birgitta Nordén (presenting)

Conference:ECER 2014, The Past, the Present and the Future of Educational Research

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


Session Information

30 SES 06 A, Global Issues in ESE

Paper Session


Room:B119 Sala de Aulas

Chair:Arjen Wals


Making a Common Agenda: Environmental and Sustainability Education with Teaching and Learning Approaches for Global Action

Being able to discuss, cooperate and have a dialogue in public are all essential skills needed in a democratic society. Other important skills include the ability to see challenges, relate different issues to each other, carry out investigations, critically read and write on issues related to their own ways of living, or look for ways of solving problems collaboratively. Another crucial aspect is learning how to present arguments and gain recognition for one’s ideas in society. The students need to be listened to when expressing a standpoint.  For democracy to function, young people should feel that they are heard, whenever they contribute to society in a respectful way, as citizens. By being confirmed at school – and in society – young people can see themselves as a part of the common efforts towards sustainability. In view of changing conditions towards sustainability, also globally, democratic skills can be considered as a form of ‘action competence’ for SD, including actions on both the individual and the structural level.  

The need of tools, to reach a deeper knowledge formation process, grasping the complexity in a global learning space, has been observed . Understanding collaboratively is a form of learning that evolves in a process perspective. Additionally, this creates the foundation for well-developed competence to act democratically. With global learning for sustainable development (GLSD), both necessary skills and a deeper understanding of the content could be gained locally, via global learning activities in global settings.  

Organizational implementation tools need to be revised, and in particular various steering documents, such as the curriculum. The question of where to place sustainable development in the curriculum of education is not only about integration, but more an issue of systemic change within educational institutions. Allowing learning for SD presupposes a fundamentally transformative approach, which could facilitate implementation processes of GLSD.

Initiating transdisciplinary education for environmental and sustainability issues is urgent. Including a global context locally is mandatory for global learing through education and sustainable development  Nethertheless, literature review rhetoric still dominates. There is a demand for investigating teacher experiences of transdisciplinary sustainability teaching and students´ learning within a global framework. In particular as the process of learning towards sustainability in global–local settings is often stated as critical. Research on new settings of teaching and learning approaches, with the potential to facilitate real transdisciplinary  thinking, and seeking to implement SD into the curriculum, must be given priority. 


This empirical study of teachers´ understanding of their teaching of global learning for sustainable development records subsequent educational development steps identifying the challenges. A phenomenographic approach with semi-structured interview questions is used to research teachers’ experiences of extending towards transdisciplinary global learning for sustainable development (GLSD) teaching. Within a longitudinal study teachers at an upper secondary school reflect on real practices focusing critical aspects experienced.

Expected Outcomes

The investigation shows teachers´ understanding of their teaching of GLSD. Continuity in the didactic process of initiating globalisation of teaching ESD is hardly extraordinary. Because of the complexity of SD issues, it is necessary to bring in an open-minded elucidation of the globalization aspects actually at hand in the foundation of the SD concept. Comprehensively examined, a foundation built on knowledge capabilities for transdisciplinary teaching approaches characterized by signs of capability to learn and act globally - instead of relying on a competence-base - could be considered forceful and holistic in its nature.
Rather than considering subject matter as knowledge per se, in this paper, relevance for action is emphasised. It is further contended that diverse and complex forms of capabilities are needed to address equally complex issues. Environmental and sustainability education reaches from the classroom to the world outside, and can therefore serve as a bridge for transition, as well as an opportunity to develop and practice key capabilities.
Tentative Conclusions:
1. The need for developing a better understanding of the global didactic angle – what are the specific challenges and opportunities that arise from using global perspectives, dialogue and collaboration in our teaching practices? How do we deal with problems in communication, assymetrıes in expression and very different scopes of action?
2. An ongoing process of compression-expansion of time/space/meaning appears to be affecting institutions and educational organisations, in their attempts to extend their reach. How do we go beyond the rhetoric? How do we reconcile the diverging motivations that underlie such projects?
3. Combining efforts could further develop appropriate practices for GLSD. Learners would be better equipped to cope with subject matters of great complexity and form nuanced conceptions of SD.


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This proposal is part of a master or doctoral thesis.

Author Information

Birgitta Nordén (presenting)
Malmö University, Sweden