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Guiding Principles of Transformative Education for Sustainable Development in Local School Organisations: Investigating Whole School Approaches through a School Improvement Lens
Karlstad University, Faculty of Health, Science and Technology (starting 2013), Department of Environmental and Life Sciences (from 2013). (SMEER)ORCID iD: 0000-0003-2726-8253
2019 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The importance of an education that empowers students to engage with real societal problems to promote a sustainable future is widely acknowledged. However, the organisational characteristics of schools that facilitate such education for sustainable development (ESD) have received little attention. This thesis aims to fill this research gap by contributing new knowledge on ways that school organisations can implement transformative ESD, while aligning with a whole school approach.

Swedish upper secondary schools actively implementing ESD were selected for the study. The research design used a mixed-method approach developed from the field of school improvement research. Methods included semi-structured interviews with school leaders and questionnaire surveys for teachers. School leaders’ and teachers’ understanding of quality in their local school organisation was studied.

The thesis identifies the guiding principles that school leaders and teachers found important for promoting transformative ESD. These include four principal quality criteria that need structural support through collegial meetings to establish a holistic idea of ESD, namely collaborative interaction and school development, student-centred education, cooperation with local society, and proactive leadership and long-term perspective. With the support of the guiding principles, the whole school organisation contributes to teaching and learning practices in ESD active schools.

The two main contributions are 1) identification of the school organisation that provide firm ground for local implementation of transformative ESD, and 2) that the internal school organisation is a prerequisite for school collaboration with the surrounding society, which is a main goal of ESD, according to policy and theory. In the case of the latter, a student-centred approach in organising education was found to facilitate such links between education and the community, which is a main goal of ESD, according to policy and theory. The results may provide useful recommendations for schools and ESD implementation programmes.

Abstract [en]

This thesis investigates the guiding principles required in the school organisation to make a permanent implementation of transformative Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) possible, while aligning with a whole school approach. Swedish upper secondary schools actively implementing ESD were selected for the study.

The research design consists of a mixed method approach that was developed from the field of school improvement research. The methods used include semi-structured interviews with school leaders and questionnaire surveys with teachers. School leaders’ and teachers’ understanding of quality in their local school organisation was studied, and the guiding principles promoting transformative ESD were identified.  These include four principal quality criteria that need structural support through collegial meetings to establish a holistic idea of ESD in the organisation: collaborative interaction and school development, student-centred education, cooperation with local society, and proactive leadership and long-term perspective.  

The two main contributions are 1) identification of the school organisation that provide firm ground for local implementation of transformative ESD, and 2) that the internal school organisation is a prerequisite for school collaboration with the surrounding society, which is a main goal of ESD, according to policy and theory. The results may provide useful recommendations for schools and ESD implementation programmes.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Karlstad: Karlstads universitet, 2019. , p. 95
Series
Karlstad University Studies, ISSN 1403-8099 ; 2019:33
Keywords [en]
Education for Sustainable Development, School organisation, Transformative ESD, Transformative Quality, School improvement, Whole School Approach
National Category
Educational Sciences Biological Sciences
Research subject
Biology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:kau:diva-75563ISBN: 978-91-7867-058-1 (print)ISBN: 978-91-7867-068-0 (electronic)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kau-75563DiVA, id: diva2:1368940
Public defence
2019-12-20, Eva Eriksson, 21A342, Karlstads universitet, Karlstad, 10:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2019-12-04 Created: 2019-11-08 Last updated: 2019-12-04Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. ESD implementation at the school organisation level, part 1 – investigating the quality criteria guiding school leaders’ work at recognized ESD schools
Open this publication in new window or tab >>ESD implementation at the school organisation level, part 1 – investigating the quality criteria guiding school leaders’ work at recognized ESD schools
2017 (English)In: Environmental Education Research, ISSN 1350-4622, E-ISSN 1469-5871, Vol. 23, no 7, p. 972-992Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Research on Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) implementation tends to focus primarily on student and teacher outcomes, and there have been few studies on leadership practices at the school organisation level that provide information on how quality in education contributes to ESD implementation. To address this issue, we conducted an empirical mixed methods study of existing practices in 10 highly ESD-active upper secondary schools in Sweden. The schools’ principals, who were responsible for implementing ESD, were interviewed to obtain information on the quality criteria they used to guide their work. Twenty-six criteria were identified and grouped into four main principal quality criteria on the basis of statistical analysis: Collaborative interaction and school development; Student centred education; Cooperation with local society; and Proactive leadership and continuity. This categorization both supports existing research on ESD quality criteria and highlights new criteria that are important but were previously unrecognized. Trends in the identified quality criteria are discussed and related to prior research in order to identify potentially fruitful school leadership and management for implementing ESD at the school organisational level. Research on Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) implementation tends to focus primarily on student and teacher outcomes, and there have been few studies on leadership practices at the school organisation level that provide information on how quality in education contributes to ESD implementation. To address this issue, we conducted an empirical mixed methods study of existing practices in 10 highly ESD-active upper secondary schools in Sweden. The schools’ principals, who were responsible for implementing ESD, were interviewed to obtain information on the quality criteria they used to guide their work. Twenty-six criteria were identified and grouped into four main principal quality criteria on the basis of statistical analysis: Collaborative interaction and school development; Student centred education; Cooperation with local society; and Proactive leadership and continuity. This categorization both supports existing research on ESD quality criteria and highlights new criteria that are important but were previously unrecognized. Trends in the identified quality criteria are discussed and related to prior research in order to identify potentially fruitful school leadership and management for implementing ESD at the school organisational level.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Taylor & Francis Group, 2017
Keywords
ESD implementation; quality criteria; school leadership; school organisation
National Category
Other Biological Topics Natural Sciences
Research subject
Biology; Biology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kau:diva-64653 (URN)10.1080/13504622.2016.1226265 (DOI)000405630600005 ()
Available from: 2017-10-10 Created: 2017-10-10 Last updated: 2019-11-08Bibliographically approved
2. ESD implementation at the school organisation level, part 2 – investigating the transformative perspective in school leaders’ quality strategies at ESD schools
Open this publication in new window or tab >>ESD implementation at the school organisation level, part 2 – investigating the transformative perspective in school leaders’ quality strategies at ESD schools
2017 (English)In: Environmental Education Research, ISSN 1350-4622, E-ISSN 1469-5871, Vol. 23, no 7, p. 993-1014Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Previous research has suggested that adopting a transformative school organisation perspective when implementing ESD may be more productive than the previously recommended transmissive perspectives, but it is not clear how transformative perspectives could be introduced. To address this issue, we conducted an empirical mixed methods study of existing practices in 10 highly ESD-active upper secondary schools in Sweden. The schools’ leaders, who were responsible for implementing ESD, were interviewed to obtain information on the quality criteria they used to guide their work. The arguments used by the leaders to justify their criteria were analysed and categorised based on their relationships with the transmissive and transformative quality strategies. Both school organisation perspectives were found to co-exist within the schools. A detailed analysis of schools where the transformative perspective was dominant revealed three distinct quality strategies, one of which was found to embody a strong focus on a transformative approach. This specific quality strategy is discussed and suggested as a way for interested schools to implement ESD in a more transformative way at the school organisation level.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Taylor & Francis Group, 2017
Keywords
Implementation of education for sustainable development; school leadership; school organisation; transformative education; quality criteria
National Category
Other Biological Topics
Research subject
Biology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kau:diva-64427 (URN)10.1080/13504622.2016.1226266 (DOI)000405630600006 ()
Available from: 2017-10-02 Created: 2017-10-02 Last updated: 2019-11-08Bibliographically approved
3. Whole school approaches to education for sustainable development: A model that links to school improvement
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Whole school approaches to education for sustainable development: A model that links to school improvement
2018 (English)In: Environmental Education Research, ISSN 1350-4622, E-ISSN 1469-5871, Vol. 25, no 4, p. 508-531Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This study applies a model of school organisation developed by one of the authors to investigate school improvement processes leading to a whole school approach in Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) literature. The model is operationalized to a survey instrument and distributed to Swedish upper secondary teachers. The instrument provides empirical indications of teachers’ perceptions of their schools in terms of four major dimensions of an ESD whole school approach, the importance assigned to a holistic vision, routines and structures, professional knowledge creation, and practical pedagogical work. The aims of the study are to compare the teachers’ perception of their school organisation. We compare perceptions of teachers working in schools actively implementing ESD and teachers in comparable reference schools. Comparisons are also made between teachers from schools applying different strategies and quality approaches in implementing ESD. The results indicate that, relative to teachers in ordinary schools, those in ESD schools perceive their school organisations to have higher quality and coherence, with greater potential to support teaching and pedagogical work in practice. However, there is substantial variation in perceptions of teachers from different ESD schools. The model’s robustness is validated by coherence of earlier results in the same schools.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Taylor & Francis, 2018
Keywords
Whole school approach, school organisation, ESD implementation, visualising ESD, ESD quality
National Category
Didactics
Research subject
Education
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kau:diva-67310 (URN)10.1080/13504622.2018.1455074 (DOI)000475360700004 ()2-s2.0-85046032288 (Scopus ID)
Funder
Swedish Research Council, B0589701
Available from: 2018-05-11 Created: 2018-05-11 Last updated: 2019-11-08Bibliographically approved
4. School leaders’ experiences of implementing education for sustainable development: Anchoring the transformative perspective
Open this publication in new window or tab >>School leaders’ experiences of implementing education for sustainable development: Anchoring the transformative perspective
2019 (English)In: Sustainability, ISSN 2071-1050, E-ISSN 2071-1050, Vol. 11, no 12, article id 3343Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

In this article, we consider the problem of ensuring that Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) is firmly embedded in a school through appropriate management and planning of the school’s activities (or characteristics of the school organization). To this end, we identify the domains of school organization that would benefit from particular structures and routines in order to embed ESD. We identify these domains by thematically analyzing responses of interviewed leaders of schools employing a transformative approach to ESD. We divided the leaders into two groups, based on the extent to which their respective schools employed a transformative approach to ESD. We analyzed the differences in responses of the two groups, enabling us to identify and compare the structures that school leaders in the respective groups believe to be important. In addition to reporting the results, we discuss their implications. We focus particularly on how structures identified by leaders of highly transformative schools could contribute to long-lasting transformative implementation of ESD, and how structures identified by leaders of the other group could be used to circumvent barriers to such implementation.

Keywords
education for sustainable development (ESD); ESD implementation; transformative schools; school leaders; school organization; upper secondary schools
National Category
Natural Sciences
Research subject
Biology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kau:diva-74931 (URN)10.3390/su11123343 (DOI)
Available from: 2019-09-30 Created: 2019-09-30 Last updated: 2020-01-16

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