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Student Sustainability Consciousness: Investigating Effects of Education for Sustainable Development in Sweden and Beyond
Karlstad University, Faculty of Health, Science and Technology (starting 2013), Department of Environmental and Life Sciences (from 2013).ORCID iD: 0000-0001-7976-4860
2018 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Environmental and sustainability education has been an important part of education worldwide for many years, aiming to foster pro-environmental behavior among young people. Education for sustainable development (ESD) and its teaching components holism (the approach to the content) and pluralism (the approach to teaching) has been launched as the educational approach to support this aim by empowering young people with action competence for a sustainable future. Environmental and sustainability certifications are commonly used by schools as support in their ESD-implementation efforts. To date, scholarly attention to, and critical reflection on the effects of such certification on students’ perceptions of sustainability have been limited.

This doctoral thesis focuses on this gap in ESD research through five large-scale studies, four of which were conducted in Sweden and one in Taiwan. Questionnaire instruments measuring students’ sustainability consciousness (SC) and their experiences of ESD were developed for the project.  In total, 2 413 students in Sweden and 1 741 students in Taiwan (grades six, nine and twelve) participated by filling in the SC questionnaire. The Swedish students also filled in questionnaires about their experiences of ESD at their schools in terms of holistic approach to content and pluralistic approach to teaching.

The results question the impact of schools’ environmental and sustainability certification on students’ SC. The results also show the importance of holism and pluralism in ESD for students’ SC, regardless of whether schools were certified or not. Moreover, the findings reveal an adolescent dip in students’ SC as well as a gender gap, both of which were reinforced among students in the certified schools.

Given the findings, this thesis can give more generalizable guidance for schools and certifying organizations to further reorient ESD towards teaching and learning approaches that have an effect on student SC.

Abstract [en]

Education for sustainable development (ESD) has been launched worldwide to empower young people by providing them with action competence for a sustainable future. ESD certifications are commonly used by schools as support in their ESD implementation efforts. To date, scholarly attention to and critical reflection on the effects of such certification on students’ perceptions of sustainability have been limited.

This doctoral thesis focuses on this gap in ESD research through five large-scale studies of which four were conducted in Sweden (N=2413) and one in Taiwan (N=1741). Questionnaire instruments measuring students’ sustainability consciousness (SC) and experiences of ESD were developed for the project. The findings reveal that the effect of ESD certifications on students’ SC is limited. The results also show positive effects of ESD on students’ SC in the form of the teaching approaches based on holism and pluralism, regardless whether schools were ESD certified or not. Moreover, results also reveal that in the certified schools the general adolescent dip and gender gap in students’ SC were reinforced. Given the findings, this thesis can give more generalizable empirical guidance for schools and certifying organizations to further reorient education towards ESD.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Karlstad: Karlstads universitet, 2018. , p. 104
Series
Karlstad University Studies, ISSN 1403-8099 ; 2018:48
Keywords [en]
Education for sustainable development, effects, environmental and sustainability education, holism and pluralism, students, sustainability consciousness
National Category
Other Biological Topics
Research subject
Biology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:kau:diva-69838ISBN: 978-91-7063-887-9 (print)ISBN: 978-91-7063-982-1 (electronic)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kau-69838DiVA, id: diva2:1257928
Public defence
2018-12-14, 1B 364 (Frödingsalen), Karlstad, 13:30 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2018-11-23 Created: 2018-10-23 Last updated: 2018-11-23Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. The effect of implementation of education for sustainable development in Swedish compulsory schools: Assesing pupils' sustainability consciousness
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The effect of implementation of education for sustainable development in Swedish compulsory schools: Assesing pupils' sustainability consciousness
2016 (English)In: Environmental Education Research, ISSN 1350-4622, E-ISSN 1469-5871, Vol. 22, no 2, p. 176-202Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

During the past decade, numerous schools in Sweden have implemented education for sustainable development (ESD) as an explicit guiding approach in teaching. In this paper, we investigate the effect of this approach in comparison with that of pupils taught in ordinary schools. Accordingly, we introduce the concept of sustainability consciousness to represent the holistic view of sustainability. Within the concept of sustainability consciousness, we combine and investigate the environmental, economic, and social dimensions of sustainable development in terms of sustainability knowingness, attitudes, and behavior. A Likert-scale questionnaire with 50 items was developed to evaluate pupils’ sustainability consciousness through a nationwide study in Sweden. A total of 1773 pupils from the 6th and 9th grades participated. The results indicated that the ESD profile schools had a small positive effect on the pupils’ sustainability consciousness, while in grade 9 the effect was negative. The implications for further ESD implementation are discussed.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
London: Routledge, 2016
Keywords
Compulsory school, Education for sustainable development, Pupils’ perceptions, Sustainability attitudes, Sustainability behavior, Sustainability consciousness
National Category
Environmental Sciences
Research subject
Biology; Education; Environmental Science
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kau:diva-33773 (URN)10.1080/13504622.2015.1005057 (DOI)000371816300002 ()
Funder
Swedish Research Council, B0589701
Note

This article has been published after the thesis defense. In the thesis it has the title The effect of implementation of education for sustainable development in Swedish compulsory schools : assesing pupils' sustainability consciousness

Available from: 2014-09-22 Created: 2014-09-22 Last updated: 2018-10-23Bibliographically approved
2. The adolescent dip in students' sustainability consciousness: Implications for education for sustainable development
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The adolescent dip in students' sustainability consciousness: Implications for education for sustainable development
2016 (English)In: The Journal of Environmental Education, ISSN 0095-8964, E-ISSN 1940-1892, Vol. 47, no 1, p. 35-51Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Previous research has shown that interest in and concern about environmental issues tends to decrease in adolescence, but less is known about adolescents' broader consciousness of sustainable development, also including economic and social issues. This study investigates students' sustainability consciousness in the transition to adolescence. This was done by surveying 2,413 Swedish students in the sixth, ninth and twelfth grades using an age-adapted questionnaire. The results unambiguously show that Swedish students' sustainability consciousness dips in adolescence, strongly indicating a need to modify the sustainability education for adolescents. Education for sustainable development is recommended as an approach to meet that need.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Taylor & Francis Group, 2016
Keywords
Adolescents, Education for Sustainable Development, Sustainability attitudes, Sustainability behavior, Sustainability Consciousness
National Category
Environmental Sciences
Research subject
Biology; Education; Environmental Science
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kau:diva-33775 (URN)10.1080/00958964.2015.1075464 (DOI)000366212100003 ()
Funder
Swedish Research Council, B0589701
Note

The article is part of the thesis Young People's "Sustainability Consciousness" and was in manuscript form at the time the thesis was published.

Available from: 2014-09-22 Created: 2014-09-22 Last updated: 2018-10-23Bibliographically approved
3. The Effect of Gender on Students’ Sustainability Consciousness: A Nationwide Swedish Study
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The Effect of Gender on Students’ Sustainability Consciousness: A Nationwide Swedish Study
2017 (English)In: The Journal of Environmental Education, ISSN 0095-8964, E-ISSN 1940-1892, Vol. 48, no 5, p. 357-370Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This study extends previous environmental education research on gender differences by investigating the gender gap between boys’ and girls’ sustainability consciousness. The issue of whether the gender gap in environmental education can be identified also in sustainability education is addressed. It has been suggested that Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) is a teaching approach that could play a key role in diminishing the gender gap. However, the possible gender-specific effect of an ESD-oriented teaching approach is empirically untested. A survey instrument was used to detect the hypothesized gender gap in students’ sustainability consciousness on a sample of 2,413 Swedish students aged 12–19. Findings reveal a gender gap in students’ sustainability consciousness. The gender gap increases throughout the age span and is amplified in ESD oriented schools.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Taylor & Francis Group, 2017
Keywords
education for sustainable development; effect studies; gender gap; socialization processes; sustainability consciousness
National Category
Earth and Related Environmental Sciences Biological Sciences Educational Sciences
Research subject
Biology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kau:diva-48545 (URN)10.1080/00958964.2017.1310083 (DOI)000412625700005 ()
Available from: 2017-05-10 Created: 2017-05-10 Last updated: 2018-10-23Bibliographically approved
4. Manuscript Green schools in Taiwan: Effects on student sustainability consciousness
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Manuscript Green schools in Taiwan: Effects on student sustainability consciousness
Show others...
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
National Category
Other Biological Topics
Research subject
Biology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kau:diva-69837 (URN)
Available from: 2018-10-23 Created: 2018-10-23 Last updated: 2018-10-25
5. The Effectiveness of Education for Sustainable Development
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The Effectiveness of Education for Sustainable Development
2015 (English)In: Sustainability, ISSN 2071-1050, E-ISSN 2071-1050, Vol. 7, no 11, p. 15693-15717Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Perhaps the most important issue in our time is how to sustain our planet's resources, while developing wealth and well-being for a growing population. This monumental task has been defined in the concept of sustainable development (SD). During the last few decades the world communities have agreed upon addressing SD through international treaties. As a response Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) has been launched as an answer to cope with sustainability. However, empirical studies are a missing link in the discourse around ESD, where decisions and implementation strategies are heavily based on policy recommendations and gut feelings by practitioners. We used data from 2413 students in grades 6, 9, and 12 from 51 schools across Sweden to study the effectiveness of ESD. In line with the current debate on the definition of ESD, we quantified the extent to which teaching can be labeled as holistic and/or pluralistic. Through a series of descriptive analyses and the estimation of structural equation models, our results indicate that ESD can indeed impact on student outcomes in terms of their sustainability consciousness. The results of this study reveal the key role ESD plays in addressing SD, paving the way for a more sustainable future.

Keywords
Education for Sustainable Development, educational effectiveness, holism, pluralism, sustainability consciousness
National Category
Educational Sciences Biological Sciences
Research subject
Biology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kau:diva-40683 (URN)10.3390/su71115693 (DOI)000369088600065 ()
Available from: 2016-02-24 Created: 2016-02-24 Last updated: 2018-10-23Bibliographically approved

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