Beyond Traditional Teacher Professional Development: Innovations in Teacher Professional Learning in Environmental and Sustainability Education

By Julie Ernst, Deanna Erickson, Eva Burgess and Ryan Feldbrugge

Continued implementation of conventional professional development strategies will likely fall short of the innovations needed to prepare teachers to fully engage in and implement environmental and sustainability education. The Rivers2Lake education program based in Superior, Wisconsin, USA illustrates a transformational approach to teacher professional development.  We examine the program as a working example of three UNESCO learning processes that have been identified as aligning with and contributing to education for sustainability (Tilbury, 2011): collaboration and dialogue; engaging the whole system; and active and participatory learning.  Through a review of these processes, the article offers considerations for innovating teacher professional learning for environmental and sustainability education.  Key recommendations include shifting from isolated professional development events to ongoing professional learning as well as further investigation of the specific mechanisms that drive each of the UNESCO learning processes.

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Briefing: Project Look Sharp’s Decoding Media Constructions and Substantiality

By Sox Sperry

This article explores how teachers can integrate the theory and practice of media literacy education into the teaching of sustainability content. It highlights two lessons, one for elementary students on bottled water choices and one for high school students on climate change and agriculture, detailing lesson construction and execution. The article explains how praxis, the intersection of reflection and action, can be brought to life in classroom settings using contemporary media documents as codes to deepen understanding and to initiate involvement for change.

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Creating a Learning Organization to Promote Sustainable Water Resources Management in Ethiopia

By Carol Atkinson-Palombo and Mekonnen Gebremichael

Partnerships between universities have the tantalizing possibility of providing fresh pathways to more sustainable societies. Institutions in sub-Saharan Africa are new players in this emerging development paradigm, but arguably are most in need of building capacity to address fragile and dynamic environmental and social conditions after decades of underinvestment in higher education. This paper documents the early stages of an Ethiopia-United States partnership to build capacity in institutions of higher education in Ethiopia in the critical area of sustainable water resource management that was funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Higher Education for Development (HED). We explain how the concept of sustainability was interwoven with theories about learning organizations, supplemented by in-depth dialogue with stakeholders to assess existing capacity and future needs, and used to inform a strategic plan. The literature highlighted the need for a learning organization: a place where people continuously expand their ability to generate the results they truly desire, where innovative and expansive patterns of thinking are nurtured, where collective aspiration is set free, and where people are continually learning how to learn together. In 2011, the partnership established the Ethiopian Institute for Water Resources (EIWR) with the vision that it will become a key innovator in sustainable water resources management in Ethiopia by integrating education, research, outreach and training. One important observation so far is that in order to create a more substantive engagement than was realized in the “technology transfer” policies that shaped past North-South relationships, partnerships need to be authentic and characterized by open dialogue, mutual respect, and shared learning. Another is that the opportunities for fieldwork in Ethiopia’s complex social and physical landscapes also have enormous potential to create deep and learning experiences for other students of sustainability, thereby building capacity not just in Ethiopia but across multiple geographies.

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Northwest Earth Institute’s Discussion Guides Enhance Sustainability Education at University of Michigan

By Mike Shriberg

Mike Shriberg shows the power of implementing a true discussion-based curriculum in his sustainable campus course at the University of Michigan.

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Review of Critical Pedagogy, Ecoliteracy, & Planetary Crises: The Ecopedagogy Movement by Richard Kahn

By Beth Pollock

Beth Pollock provides the historical roots and inspiration of Kahn’s Ecopedagogy in Freire and Illich, giving us a good pre-view of what to expect in the book. She finds Kahn’s call for a new kind of pedagogy, founded in these greater thinkers, timely as we work towards establishing educational processes that provide the necessary literacy to face ecological and sustainability issues now and in the future.

Beth Pollock nos indica las raíces históricas y la inspiración por la formulación del “Ecopedagogía” de Richard Kahn, basado en Freire y Illich, dándonos un buen previsto de que los se espera en el libro. Ella encuentra algo pertinente en la llamada de Kahn para una nueva pedagogía, fundada en estos grandes filósofos, mientras trabajamos hacia el establecimiento de un proceso educativo que provee el entendimiento necesario para enfrentar los asuntos ecológicos y de sustentabilidad actualmente y en el porvenir.

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Sustainability Education and Transformational Change

By Rick Medrick

With elegant simplicity, Rick Medrick makes the case for the importance of transformational change as part of our education process to bring about sustainability. He brings forth the need for creating learning environments where real, transformational change, can happen. And he invokes the role of the “servant-leader” in establishing those environments as part of an organic and evolutionary change process that we can help to generate.

Con una sencillez elegante, Rick Medrick hace el caso por la importancia del cambio transformacional como parte de nuestro proceso educativo para llegar a la sustentabilidad. Trae al frente la necesidad de crear ambientes de aprendizaje a donde el cambio verdadero transformacional puede ocurrir. Y el invoca el papel del “líder-sirviente” en establecer estos ambientes como parte de un proceso de cambio orgánico y evolutivo que nosotros podemos ayudar en generar.

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