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How to engage students in sustainability

News: Oct 06, 2017

Just like business-as-usual is no longer an option, neither is education-as-usual. That was the starting point for a GMV-workshop with Arjen Wals, professor in transformative learning for socio-ecological sustainability. Scientists and teachers from University of Gothenburg and Chalmers explored new ways of learning – by walking the talk and talking the walk.
–I think the sun is the most sustainable, because it is for everyone, says Peter Beusch, from GU:s department for business administration.
Four scientists are on a walk in the centre of Gothenburg. The mission is to find and take pictures of two scenes representing sustainability, and then two scenes representing unsustainability.
–These bikes are sustainable, says Anne Algers, glancing at the rental bikes at Vasagatan. Compared to all other transport systems, it is the best. These bikes you could also share, it takes fewer resources to produce them.
The scientists are sent out by Arjen Wals, and they return back to Pedagogen with pictures of the scenes: a stroller, a rat-trap, Skatteverket (Sweden’s tax department) and adds for apartments, to mention a few. Then follows a vivid discussion about the pictures and the method: walk the talk.
–It is a really good way of doing it. You are on a journey together and that creates equality. You don’t care about the other’s background. And you have a common goal, says Erik Sterner, from Chalmers department of Space, Earth and Environment.
Why did you join this workshop?
–I am dedicated to sustainable development. It is about justice, for our generation and future ones, and also globally, between different places.
In front of him sits Anne Algers from GU:s department for education, communication and learning.
–I want to get inspiration from others and create a network. We have to work with sustainable development in a scientific and thoughtful way, says Anne Algers.
Arjen’s power-point shows a list of questions. Are they “Hopelessly ill-defined or attractively vague”? The questions are for example “Is organic sustainable?” and “Are solar panels sustainable?”.
–I think they are attractively vague, says Arjen Wals. You need to embed it with meaning yourself, depending on where you are, who you are and at what point in time you ask the question.
He then shows a graph, where there is a line from where learners have little input, to where learners have lots of input. There is also a discussion about the difference between expert-driven sustainability and people-driven sustainability.
And the workhop wraps up with defining focal areas of learning for sustainability, for example understanding change, complexity and transitions.
–Education is not only a way to prepare people for jobs, but also for learners to discover what it means to be human in a finite world, says Arjen Wals.
 

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