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Student views of environmental, social and economic dimensions of sustainable development and their interconnectedness: A search for the holistic perspective in education for sustainable development
Karlstad University, Faculty of Health, Science and Technology (starting 2013), Department of Environmental and Life Sciences (from 2013).ORCID iD: 0000-0002-5446-7349
2020 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)Alternative title
Elevers föreställningar om miljömässiga, sociala och ekonomiska dimensioner av hållbar utveckling och deras sammanlänkning : En utforskande studie av det holistiska perspektivet i utbildning för hållbar utveckling (Swedish)
Abstract [en]

The work in this thesis centers on upper secondary students’ views of the environmental, social and economic dimensions of sustainable development and their interconnectedness. The focus has been to study the diversity of students’ views in various contexts. The research uses as its starting point the aims of education for sustainable development to facilitate a holistic understanding among students, which implies the consideration of environmental, social and economic perspectives when dealing with issues of sustainability.

A mixed methods and iterative approach was applied in this research. Two data sets were collected: one larger-scale data set from 638 students in grade 12 (aged 18-19) on science and social science programs, and one smaller set involving 18 students of similar age and programs. In the first data collection exercise, the students responded to questionnaires investigating their sustainability consciousness and decision-making within different everyday contexts. The aim of the second data collection exercise was to study, in-depth, patterns of students’ views on the interconnectedness of sustainability dimensions. 

The results reveal a diversity of student views that specifically relate to the economic dimension in sustainable development. The economic dimension is perceived differently in their sustainability consciousness, and when they encounter the economic dimension in various sustainability contexts. Moreover, there are four distinctly different beliefs among students about the interconnectedness of the economy and sustainable development. The four beliefs are identified as the un-differentiating positive, the nuanced ambivalent, the two-way convinced and the critical, differing in their arguments about the interconnectedness of environmental, social and economic dimensions. The findings indicate the potential resource students’ views and different contexts can represent in teaching that aims at perspective-shifting and learning about the complexity and dynamic nature of sustainability issues.

Abstract [en]

Education for sustainable development (ESD) is described as a learner-centered teaching approach in which the perspectives of the learners constitute an important part. In line with the holistic aims of ESD, social and economic perspectives are considered alongside environmental perspectives when dealing with sustainability issues. This thesis is a compilation of four sub-studies, centering on the diversity of views among upper secondary students on sustainable development, its underlying environmental, social and economic dimensions and their interconnectedness. Both quantitative and qualitative methods were used to investigate the diversity in students’ views in different contexts. The results reveal a diversity in views that specifically relates to the economic dimension of sustainable development. Four distinctly different beliefs were identified among the students on how the economy and sustainable development are connected. Moreover, students’ views differed depending on whether they encountered environmental, social and economic dimensions in an integrated way or in isolation. The findings indicate the potential resource students’ views and different contexts can represent in education that aims for learning about the complex and dynamic nature of sustainable development.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Karlstad: Karlstads universitet, 2020. , p. 99
Series
Karlstad University Studies, ISSN 1403-8099 ; 2020:14
Keywords [en]
Education for sustainable development, sustainable development, upper secondary, student views, sustainability consciousness, interconnectedness, holism, pluralism
National Category
Didactics Biological Sciences
Research subject
Biology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:kau:diva-77040ISBN: 978-91-7867-097-0 (print)ISBN: 978-91-7867-107-6 (electronic)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kau-77040DiVA, id: diva2:1395718
Public defence
2020-04-03, 21A 342, Eva Eriksson-salen, Universitetsgatan 2, Karlstad, 10:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2020-03-12 Created: 2020-02-24 Last updated: 2020-03-12Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. The implementation of education for sustainable development in Sweden: Investigating the sustainability consciousness among upper secondary students
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The implementation of education for sustainable development in Sweden: Investigating the sustainability consciousness among upper secondary students
2014 (English)In: Research in Science & Technological Education, ISSN 0263-5143, Vol. 32, no 3, p. 318-339Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Background: Sustainable development (SD) is a complex idea, based on environmental, economic and social dimensions. In line with SD, education for sustainable development (ESD) is an approach to teaching that combines cognitive and affective domains and aims to build empowerment abilities.

Purpose: The purpose of this article is to investigate effects of the implementation of ESD in Sweden, in terms of developing students’ sustainability consciousness (SC). Two groups of students were included: one was from schools with a profile of ESD and the other one was from comparable schools without explicit ESD-profile.

Sample: A total of 638 students from upper secondary schools (grade 12) in science-related or social science-related programs participated in the study.

Design and methods: A procedure was created for the selection of schools considered to be the most active in using an ESD approach as well as comparable schools with no explicit ESD approach. During spring 2013, the students responded to a questionnaire based on sustainability knowingness, attitudes and behaviors within the environmental, economic and social dimensions of SD that together constitute the concept of SC. Data were analyzed using SPSS software.

Results: The results indicate that there are significant differences in SC between students from schools that teach with an ESD approach compared to students from regular schools. Furthermore, a significant difference between the two groups of students was found in the underlying economic dimension of SC. No significant differences were found in the environmental and social dimensions of SC.

Conclusions: Although the results show that ESD-profiled schools have effect on students' SC, the effects are relatively small. Therefore, the effects and nature of the implementation of ESD are discussed.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Routledge, 2014
Keywords
Education for sustainable development, sustainability consciousness, holistic, upper secondary, students
National Category
Natural Sciences Didactics
Research subject
Biology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kau:diva-34536 (URN)10.1080/02635143.2014.944493 (DOI)000344856200006 ()
Funder
Swedish Research Council, B0589701
Available from: 2014-11-06 Created: 2014-11-03 Last updated: 2020-02-24Bibliographically approved
2. Separated and integrated perspectives on environmental, economic, and social dimensions: an investigation of student views on sustainable development
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Separated and integrated perspectives on environmental, economic, and social dimensions: an investigation of student views on sustainable development
2016 (English)In: Environmental Education Research, ISSN 1350-4622, E-ISSN 1469-5871, Vol. 22, no 8, p. 1115-1138Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The sustainable development (SD) concept is based on the idea that economic and social development should be linked to the environment. However, controversies about various associated issues often arise due to the differences in protagonists’ viewpoints, depending partly on whether they focus mainly on environmental, economic, or social dimensions and partly on ideological stances related (for instance) to the optimal ways of promoting economic growth and social justice. This study investigates views of 638 Swedish upper secondary students who responded to a questionnaire probing their views of SD from two perspectives. In the first, the dimensions were separately introduced, so the respondents only had to consider one dimension at a time. In the second, the dimensions were introduced in an integrated fashion, so the respondents had to consider effects related to all three dimensions. The results strongly indicate that the students’ views and priorities concerning the dimensions depend on both the perspective and the context. Implications for teaching and learning are discussed. 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Taylor & Francis, 2016
Keywords
sustainable development, education for sustainable development, dimensions of sustainable development, holistic understanding, students’ conceptions, decision-making
National Category
Educational Sciences
Research subject
Education
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kau:diva-42364 (URN)10.1080/13504622.2015.1063589 (DOI)000387141700003 ()2-s2.0-84938631442 (Scopus ID)
Available from: 2016-06-07 Created: 2016-05-23 Last updated: 2020-02-24Bibliographically approved
3. Exploring the Role of the Economy in Young Adults’ Understanding of Sustainable Development
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Exploring the Role of the Economy in Young Adults’ Understanding of Sustainable Development
2018 (English)In: Sustainability, ISSN 2071-1050, E-ISSN 2071-1050, Vol. 10, no 8, p. 1-17, article id 2738Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Theeconomicdimensionisoneofthecentralperspectivesinbothsustainabledevelopment and education for sustainable development. The role of the economy in sustainable development has been discussed extensively over the years and different views exist about how economic activities affect other sustainability dimensions. How young people view the relationships among economic perspectives and sustainable development seems to be an underemphasized perspective in sustainability education and underexplored in the field of sustainability education research. This study uses cluster analysis, which is an explorative approach, to identify and analyze young peoples’viewsoftherelationshipsbetweeneconomicgrowth,economicdevelopmentandsustainable development. Six hundred and thirty eight students (age 18–19) from 15 schools across Sweden responded to a questionnaire probing (1) views on these relationships, and (2) their environmental consciousness. Four clusters of students differing in their views on the economy in sustainable development were identified in the analysis: un-differentiating positive, nuanced ambivalent, two-way convinced, and critical. Further analysis indicated that some groups differed in their perception of the environmental dimension of sustainable development. Implications of these findings are discussed from the perspective of education for sustainable development.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
MDPI, 2018
Keywords
economy; environment; economic growth; economic development; sustainable development; holistic; education
National Category
Didactics
Research subject
Biology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kau:diva-68837 (URN)10.3390/su10082738 (DOI)000446767700154 ()
Funder
Swedish Research Council, B0589701
Available from: 2018-08-22 Created: 2018-08-22 Last updated: 2020-02-24Bibliographically approved
4. Diversity in views as a resource for learning?: Student perspectives on the interconnectedness of sustainability dimensions
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Diversity in views as a resource for learning?: Student perspectives on the interconnectedness of sustainability dimensions
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
National Category
Didactics
Research subject
Biology
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kau:diva-77039 (URN)
Available from: 2020-02-24 Created: 2020-02-24 Last updated: 2020-02-24

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