Rethinking Curriculum in Education for Assessment

  • Length: 10 pages
  • Subject: Teaching
  • Type: Assessment
  • Paper: #73299583

Excerpt from Assessment :

253). Based on their review of 20 existing education for sustainability initiatives, Ferreira and her associates identified three primary models that exist along a continuum from local to more broad-based approaches as follows:

1. Collaborative Resource Development and Adaptation model: This model seeks to bring about change through the development and adaptation of high quality curriculum and pedagogy resources. It does not usually seek to bring about change across a whole teacher education system;

2. Action Research model: This model aims to build capacity by engaging the initiative participants in a 'deep' process of reflective action. This model thus targets change at the practitioner and institutional level; and,

3. Whole-of-System model: This is a radically different model from the other two in that it seeks change in a multi-faceted and system-wide manner (2007, p. 46).

An analysis of these three models by Ferreira et al. showed that while each model provided a useful framework in which to promote education for sustainability initiatives, their effectiveness was mitigated by a number of factors, including the extent to which they actively engaged learners in developing the critical thinking skills they would need to formulate alternative and innovative solutions to issues of sustainability. The focus of some of the education for sustainability initiatives reviewed by Ferreira et al. related to widespread audiences using online media, while others were more focused on developing change at the local level with a smaller group. Although larger audiences might appear to be the more valuable target, Ferreira and her colleagues found that localized initiatives tended to produce longer-lasting results. In this regard, Ferreira et al. concluded that, "With a deep level of engagement over a longer period of time it appears participants are more likely to remain committed and to continue to seek ways in which to mainstream environmental education and/or education for sustainability ideas and approaches in their own teaching, and in the teaching of their colleagues" (2007, p. 46).

Providing this type of curricular offering for education in sustainability, though, requires a comprehensive, multidisciplinary approach. For example, Ferreira et al. note that, "Recent education for sustainability literature advocates holistic integrated concepts of sustainability that include the social, economic, political, cultural and ecological dimensions of the environment and sustainability, along with teaching and learning pedagogies that are process-oriented and seek to develop critical thinking skills and actively engage learners" (p. 46). It is possible to gain some insights into what has worked best in the past so that more of this can be done today. In this regard, Ferreira et al. add that, "The most successful, widespread and long-lasting initiatives were those that reflected environmental education and/or education for sustainability 'best practice' in both program focus and pedagogy" (p. 46).

Although most of the educators reviewed for this study stress the need for additional research in this area, some best practices can be discerned from recent and ongoing education for sustainment initiatives. Typically, environmental education and education for sustainability initiatives also fall along a continuum of relevance and comprehensiveness as follows:

1. Education about the environment and education about sustainability;

2. Education through and in the environment and education for sustainability, and,

3. Education for the environment and sustainability (Paris, 2002, p. 101).

Although the third level is perhaps the most important with regards to addressing the looming ecological crisis facing humankind, it is also the most controversial (Paris, 2002). By contrast, the second level has been used to good effect in rethinking curricular offerings for education in sustainability based on the "belief that the most powerful learning happened out in the landscape" (Paris, 2002, p. 101). This observation is congruent with the assertion by Yencken and his associates that, "Science is not the only way of knowing about the environment. Local and traditional knowledge, intuition and feeling have their place alongside scientific rationalism. Attitudes, assumptions, discourses, institutions, practices and personal actions all therefore need to be studied in their cultural context" (2000, p. 35). According to Companion, Laurie and Shaw (2002), "The idea of using nature as a model of sustainability is currently revolutionizing the way we think about the design of our industries, housing, food production and waste-- treatment systems. It can also help to improve the way we teach about the environment" (p. 7). For this purpose, Whitehouse (2002) recommends landshaping to promote education in sustainability. "Landshaping," Whitehouse advises, "is one means for thinking about how researchers within the broad field of environmental education can pay attention to the relationships between powerful acts of human imagination and the expression of our imaginations in language, which continue to shape our understandings through time" (p. 58).

By connecting the education for sustainability curriculum with these personalized concepts, it is possible to engage in meaning-making activities that can facilitate education for sustainability. In this regard, Whitehouse adds, "As such, landshaping can be used to analyze how people imagine themselves in relation to material, biophysical environments and to explore the stories they tell about themselves and the meanings they create" (2002, p. 58). An analysis of landshaping as part of a larger curriculum devoted to education for sustainability by Kermath (2007) found that, "Campus and urban landscaping has important connections to biodiversity conservation, perceptions of natural heritage, sense-of-place, ecological literacy and the role of campus landscapes in the larger community" (p. 210). By integrating a landshaping component into its sustainable education curriculum, Stetson University in Florida succeeded in ". . . altering key elements of human landscapes in strategic places -- campus landscapes in this case -- to reflect a deep appreciation of natural heritage, that helped shift worldviews to foster real sustainability" (p. 10). The use of landshaping or other tools and methods to educate about sustainability will require some fundamental changes by educators and students alike, though. In this regard, Wheeler, Horvath and Victor (1999) cite the following steps as being required in order to formulate new and more effective approaches to education for sustainability in higher educational settings:

1. Those who develop educational policy and influence curriculum must recognize the need for interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary study and the integration of sustainability thinking into all programs and courses;

2. Instructors must be encouraged to and be supported in developing such curricula;

3. Students must be introduced to sustainability concepts as they relate to their course of study and, where possible, to their post-graduation lives;

4. Businesses and other employers must recognize the value in recruiting graduates and developing future leaders with an all round understanding of principles of sustainability; and,

5. Governments, international agencies, foundations and agents of civil society must assist in developing the partnership arrangements which will permit all involved in higher education to develop and disseminate learning in sustainability in as free and open way as possible (Wheeler et al., 1999, p. 167).

Taken together, the foregoing clearly indicate the need for a broad-based approach to rethinking curriculum in education for sustainability in private education, but a top-down approach that ensures ongoing support for these initiatives is an essential ingredient for succees.


The research showed that environmental issues continue to dominate the headlines and the need for effective education for sustainability initiatives has never been greater. The research also showed that in recent years, the focus of such educational initiatives has changed from educating about the environment to programs that educate for the environment. This transition in curricular content, though, remains underway in many parts of the world and many educational institutions remain stagnated in their approach to education for sustainability by failing to take advantage of innovative methods such as landshaping that can help promote the types of sustainable thinking on the part of young learners that will be needed to address the environmental problems facing the world today. In the final analysis, the need is great and the time remaining for the residents of Earth is short and education for sustainability represents a viable starting point to address these issues in the years to come.


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