Author(s):Birgitta Nordén (presenting)

Conference:ECER 2013, Creativity and Innovation in Educational Research

Network:08. Research on Health Education


Session Information

08 SES 08, Professional Development and Educational Change in ESD

Paper Session



Chair:Johan Öhman


Transdisciplinary Teaching Approaches of Global Learning for Sustainable Development

From a pedagogical perspective with a concern of teaching and learning, it is necessary to focus on not only the learner and the content, but also the teachers experiences - at the same time, while promoting transdisciplinary knowledge formation. Marton and Tsui are referring capabilities to objects of learning. The teacher work towards the object of learning includes not only what the students trying to learn, but also on the way of how the students mastering that. Aware or not about it, the understanding of the teachers heading for the intended object of learning , is crucial.

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. Comprehensively examined, a foundation built on knowledge capabilities for acting globally, instead of grounded on competence-base, an approach characterized by signs of capability to act globally could be considered more persuasive and holistic in its character. 

Education, often is heard of as being the ultimate way aimed at paving for realization of the high flying visions of sustainability, is considered being outstanding for implementing sustainability knowledge formation for reflections with a character of deep thinking for change in - and development of - everyday acting. At the same time it is a fact that Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) is too complex and challenging for teachers to handle due to its multidisciplinary approach. And, even a bigger challenge, if focusing the initial process, learning SD transdisciplinarily seems to be experienced as almost an impossible task – at least at upper secondary school level due to the organization and structure of schools from a national perspective with emphasis on measuring and subject matters. In particular, the measuring and comparison in international contexts as TIMSS, PISA, and OECD, makes it hard to develop a specific content with an adequate content of ESD. Thereby, also the global dimensions of ESD get some disapproving attention and are criticized for unsympathetically authorize and give legitimacy to globalization brought into the curriculum. My point of departure is in education, and my focus is on learning and teaching sustainability issues locally - with consciousness of the balance between the local parts and the global influences as a whole. The relations between the local parts as such, and the relations to the whole planet. My empirical study aims at showing some concrete examples of how planetary or “global” sustainability education i.e. “global” teaching and “global” learning could emerge through the decades from the separate starting points of EE, SD and ESD in an increasingly globalized world. Research on new settings of educational approaches, with the potential to facilitate real transdisciplinary thinking, and seeking to integrate SD ideas into the curriculum, must be given priority (Reid & Petocz).

The aim of the studyfocuses the specific capabilities teachers require, and teaching approaches developed, meeting new settings of transdisciplinary sustainability teaching and learning situations locally including a global dimension.


Context: Upper secondary school with global ESD profile staging for transdisciplinary collaboration among teachers. The teachers have competence in twelve different subject matters, and make changes in their schedules, collaborate and discuss educational development preparing a three-weeks project on design of city sector for sustainable living, the pupils in two classes in small teams carry out the mission considering the various dimensions of SD.

Research Method/Approach: Phenomenography (Marton & Booth, 1997).

Data Collection: With a phenomenographic approach, semi-structured interview questions were analysed describing the experiences of teachers concerning global teaching and learning of SD. Upper secondary school teachers (n=12) are in teams educating SD transdisciplinarily with a global dimension in a local context. The teachers are interviewed three times (45 minutes) in a longitudinal study (before, in the middle of, and after the specific “Sustainable City” project).

Data Analysis: The recorded interviews are transcribed and read thoroughly, stressing the approaches in transdisciplinary teaching of GLSD. The analysis performed used contextual analysis (Svensson) choosing and delimiting phenomenon as a part of the world, and distinguishing its integral parts and their relations to each other.

Expected Outcomes

The result highlights teachers´ experiences of transdisciplinary teaching and learning with a global dimension towards sustainability in relation to local teaching challenges. Findings concern the role of awareness raising dialogues, various subject matter expertise, critical knowledge capabilities related to collaborative knowledge formation of GLSD and a learner perspective.
APPROACH 1: Teachers participate by assisting.
APPROACH 2: Teachers "own" and have driving force.
Five Main Attitudes among the teachers approaching transdisciplinary teaching (TT) for GLSD were recognized: critical, supportive, complementing, cogent (power to influence or convince) or trenchant (vigorous, forceful), and persuasive (capable of convincing; power to induce action).
The investigation shows teachers´ understanding of the didactic process of initiating globalised teaching of sustainability, even though featured continuity in their teaching of GLSD is unusual. In any educational context – in this teaching practice, particularly – the concept of GLSD continuously needs to be renegotiated by participating teachers in every concrete transdisciplinary teaching and learning situation. A problematic relationship seems built into the concept of transdisciplinary teaching – departing from the local teacher teams´ incapability to handle the complex transdisciplinary education of SD, which notwithstanding might be facilitated within the field recognized as global learning for sustainable development.


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This proposal is part of a master or doctoral thesis.

Author Information

Birgitta Nordén (presenting)
Malmö University, Sweden