Author(s):Birgitta Nordén (presenting)

Conference:ECER 2015, Education and Transition

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


Session Information

30 SES 09 A, ESE Teaching

Paper Session


Room:X. Előadó [C]

Chair:Johan Öhman


Key Opportunities For Global Learning In Schools To Develop Competences: Transition Of Knowledge Formation Into Global Action Towards Sustainability

Towards sustainability the implementation of Global Learning for Sustainable Development (GLSD) is crucial in education (Scheunpflug and Asbrant, 2006). A better understanding of how to – from a global didactic angle – establish globally genuine dialogues (Biesta, 1994; Roth, 2006) forming nuanced conceptions of sustainable development (SD) is necessary (Scott and Gough, 2004; Tatoo, 2007; Jickling and Wals, 2008). Global teaching as well as global learning has to identify the challenges in various contexts for transdisciplinary knowledge formation (Wals, 2010). Aiming to reach established and new target groups; higher education and secondary school as well as informal learning situations demands a holistic understanding (Pierce, 1934; Hansson, 2000). The challenges take their main point of departure in the particular global perspective (Anderberg, Norden & Hansson, 2009), and concerns ways to see the whole and the parts, on the one hand, while on the other learning how to relate the parts to one another, and to the whole (Svensson, 1986), respectively. Students in a globalized setting could also achieve intercultural qualities of learning outcomes, in terms of competencies and capabilities (Bowden, 2004; Anderberg, Haggstrom & Nordquist, 2007) needed for constructive intercultural encounters and interaction. According to Svensson and Wihlborg (2010), intercultural learning could lead to a development of ‘global consciousness’ and support global citizenship, capabilities and competencies. On a global level, an ‘emergent holistic consciousness’, through the connection of cultures to a complex collective whole, would form a collective consciousness. Because of the complex demands underlying the discourse of GLSD and related topics, a curriculum dimension is also needed, for learning and teaching SD in a globalized context. Emphasizing that ‘globalization and the need for curricula change will become the great challenge. . Though, the global perspective (Svensson & Wihlborg, 2010) has to be integrated in curriculum to achieve a competence-driven global curriculum. Thereby, capabilities through constructive interaction for various qualities of global learning and knowledge formation for sustainable development will be a central part of the outcome. Global learning encourages self-determination (Rauch and Steiner, 2006).

Though, repeatingly since 1972 (Agenda 21, chapter 36) proclaims for initiating the process of global teaching and learning about sustainability issues in global–local settings, reviews of literature show a dominance of rethoric (Anderberg, Norden & Hansson, 2009). Few implementation attempts have led to continuity in the didactic steps to developing global teaching. By capturing some of the experiences of the many stakeholders in a recent research project on the process of initiating implementation teaching and learning in global settings, Lund Calling (Norden & Anderberg, 2010), a framework for the further development of the implementation processes was recognised. To be of practical use, the process of developing global teaching for sustainable development has to be understood more carefully. This paper describes an empirical follow-up research of the implementation process, concerning how teachers at an upper secondary school develop their common planning and conduct teaching for sustainable development with a global focus transdisciplinarily. A phenomenographic approach and semi-structured interview questions are used for analysing and describing the teacher competence development in relation to the global learning process. In the result will be presented; the participating teachers´ concrete practice and challenges for global learning, while transition via knowledge formation supports competence development for global action. The findings show among other things the importance of awareness raising dialogues among teachers, who from their various subject matter expertises were heading for a common development of education in teaching of sustainable development with a global focus. This research clearly points to a link between transdisciplinary and global teaching within the field of global learning for sustainable development (GLSD).


Global learning presupposes competencies, which individuals need to acquire if they want to actively shape the development of world society. The purpose is to highlight some crucial elements of the global dimension in teaching and learning towards sustainability in the context of competence and professional teacher development and i.e. their development of systems thinking and interpersonal teaching strategies (Scheunpflug, 2014; Wiek, Withycombe & Redman, 2011; Reid, 2009; Cole, 2006). Within this framework, global learning for sustainable development (GLSD) has been recognized as a productive concept (Anderberg, Norden & Hansson, 2009).
The approach addresses the challenge of teaching about the complex field of sustainable development (SD) in a number of contexts, including higher education (HE), secondary school education, informal or life-long learning situations, as well as in outreach from university or enterprises, aiming to reach new target groups. The understanding of learning, which underpins most of this research studies of the context for learning, is that which has emerged from phenomenographic studies, now known as variation theory (Marton and Booth, 1997).
Learning is characterised above all as coming to see things in qualitatively new ways. This involves the learner (i.e. the “learning” teacher) becoming able to discern new qualities in some focal phenomenon or aspects of that phenomenon, which demands opening dimensions of variation in awareness, becoming able to see that that which has been taken for granted could be otherwise (Åkerlind, 2007; Runesson, 2006).
With a phenomenographic approach, semi-structured interview questions are used for analysing and describing the process of teacher experiencing, teacher thinking and teacher reflection concerning global teaching and learning of SD. Upper secondary school teachers (n=13), who have competence in different subject matters and are working together in teams educating SD transdisciplinarily in a global context, are interviewed three times (before, in the middle of, and after a specific course moment of SD with a global focus) in a longitudinal study during 2010-2011. According to the theoretical foundation of the research questions, we will through the phenomenographic approach (Marton & Booth, 1997) focus on (1) the content that is the transdisciplinary subject matter of SD within a global focus; (2) the individual learning within awareness raising dialogues with a global focus, and (3) the knowledge formation and the development of capability, competence and skills (Scheunpflug, 2014; Wiek, Withycombe & Redman, 2011; Booth & Anderberg, 2005; Bowden, 2004).

Expected Outcomes

The result, presented at the EERA 2015 conference, will be related to the main challenges for global learning in schools, where global action competences transition and develop through knowledge formation. The findings show that in any educational context – and in this teaching practice, particularly, how – the concept of GLSD continuously needs to be renegotiated by participating teachers in every concrete learning situation (Dahlin, 1999). While Rauch and Steiner (2006) see SD mainly as a narrowing idea, providing a heuristic format for reflection, the complexities of SD also provide a bearing for processes of global research and learning. Due to the complexity of SD issues, it is necessary to bring in an open-minded elucidation of the globalization factors actually present, already in the foundation of the SD concept. The findings clearly point to a link between transdisciplinary and global teaching within the field of global learning for sustainable development (Nordén and Anderberg, 2010).


Anderberg, E., Nordén, B. & Hansson, B. (2009). Global learning for sustainable development in higher education: recent trends and critique. International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education 10(4), pp. 368–378.
Bowden, John A. (2004 ): Capabilities–driven curriculum design. In Caroline Baillie & Ivan Moore eds: Effective learning and teaching in engineering, pp. 36–48. New York: RoutledgeFalmer, Taylor & Francis Group.
Bowden, John A. & Marton, Ference (1998): The university of learning: beyond quality and competence. London: Kogan Page.
Brunold, Andreas Otto (2005): Global Learning and Education for Sustainable Development. Higher Education in Europe, 30(3–4), pp. 295–306.
Hansson, Birgit (2000): Förutsättningar för gymnasieelevers kunskapsbildning och för undervisning inom miljöområdet. [Conditions to promote students´ knowledge and education about environment]. Dissertation. Department of Education, Lund University.
Hansson, Birgit (2004): Formation of environmental knowledge. In Per Wickenberg, Harriet Axelsson, Lena Fritzen, Gunnar Helldén & Johan Öhman eds: Learning To Change Our World, pp. 59–73. Lund: Studentlitteratur
Nordén, B. & Anderberg, E. (2009). Research of the pilot project Lund Calling: learning and teaching in global settings. Local challenges. (EU as a global actor).
Nordén, B. & Anderberg, E. (2012). Sustainable development through global learning and teaching. In Madu, C. N. & Kuei, C–H (Eds.) Handbook of Sustainability Management. London: Imperial College Press. ISBN: 978–981–4354–81–3.
Nordén, B. & Hansson, B. (2006). To form and transform knowledge in the extended classroom; Networked learning for sustainable development. Paper presented at the European Conference on Educational Research (ECER), September 13-16, in Geneva, Switzerland.
Peirce, Charles. S. (1934): Collected Papers V of Charles Sanders Peirce. In Charles Hartshorne & Paul Weiss (Eds.): Vol. 5. Pragmatism and Pragmaticism. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Rauch, Franz & Steiner, Regina (2006): School development through education for sustainable development in Austria, Environmental Education Research, 12(1), pp. 115–127.
Wals, A.E.J. & Jickling, B. (2002). “Sustainability” in higher education: from doublethink and newspeak to critical thinking and meaningful learning. Higher Education Policy 15 (2002) 121 - 131.

This proposal is part of a master or doctoral thesis.

Author Information

Birgitta Nordén (presenting)
Malmö University