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Teacher Education and Anthropocene
Karlstad University, Faculty of Health, Science and Technology (starting 2013), Department of Environmental and Life Sciences (from 2013).ORCID iD: 0000-0003-4306-8278
2019 (English)Conference paper, Oral presentation with published abstract (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Education in general and teacher education in particular is believed to play a key role for a sustainable world. In recent years, there has been discussion on the need to reorient teacher education towards sustainable development. These discussions elucidated that teacher education is no longer about just a mastery of content knowledge and skill in a particular discipline that one is trained for, and necessitates the need for the development of key competences and skills. Yet it is not well documented how teacher education programmes in different nations have successfully transformed and integrated sustainable development into the core of teacher education programmes. What can teacher education contribute in terms of providing directions to rethink humans’ relationship with the planet in today’s Anthropocene era? What kind of (fresh) approach to teacher education is required in the Anthropocene/in 21stcentury? How can teacher education responds/is responding to the challenges posed by the Anthropocene? The discussion is anchored around two particular teacher training programmes, i.e. primary school teacher training at the University of Gothenburg and Karlstad University, and presented as a comparison format. Both of these programmes includes one single objective related to sustainable development in thestudy plan for teacher education for primary school respectively. During the fourth semester students can choose one specialization and in two of these, technology and natural sciences and the specialization for social sciences includes one course objective dealing with sustainability perspectives respectively. We conclude that sustainability perspectives are very limited during all of the courses for future primary teachers at both Karlstad University and the University of Gothenburg.

Abstract [en]

Education in general and teacher education in particular is believed to play a key role for a sustainable world. In recent years, there has been discussion on the need to reorient teacher education towards sustainable development. These discussions elucidated that teacher education is no longer about just a mastery of content knowledge and skill in a particular discipline that one is trained for, and necessitates the need for the development of key competences and skills. Some of these competences includes: understanding change, complexity and transitions; dealing with values, ethics and moral dilemmas; building agency and transformative capacity; utilizing diversity, uncertainty and dissonance; and boundary crossing, systems thinking and connectivism (Wals, 2014). Yet it is not well documented how teacher education programmes in different nations have successfully transformed and integrated sustainable development into the core of teacher education programmes.

 

While the integration of sustainable development into teacher education is still in question, the contemporary Anthropocene era adds another layer of complexity to the problem. The Anthropocene refers to the new geological epoch which signals human’s consumptive and destructive behavior putting significant impact on global climate and ecosystems (Crutzen and Stoermer, 2000). The notion of Anthropocene puts human in a new position (entangled with nature) and calls for a rethinking of knowledge, skills and value are required to live in the new era. Many scholars argue that the knowledge structure in modern teacher education is anthropocentric, and hence built on humans-nature binary. In doing so, the concept on Anthropocene urges us to question the implicit division between society and nature embedded within sustainable development discourse, and hence calls for rethinking its meaning (Johnson and Villumsen, 2018) and attributed ethical implications. Drawing on the urge from Anthropocene, this paper argues for the need to rethink teacher education in light of the change (in value, knowledge and skills) the Anthropocene is calling for. 

 

Aim

Anthropocene poses challenges for education which require significant changes of practice in schools and universities, and thus to teacher education. Yet, the relationship between Anthropocene and teacher education, remains a less explored topic. Among others, this paper addresses the following questions. What can teacher education contribute in terms of providing directions to rethink humans’ relationship with the planet in today’s Anthropocene era? What kind of (fresh) approach to teacher education is required in the Anthropocene/in 21stcentury? How can teacher education responds/is responding to the challenges posed by the Anthropocene? 

 

The discussion is anchored around two particular teacher training programmes, i.e. primary school teacher training at the University of Gothenburg and Karlstad University, and presented as a comparison format. The different competences, skills and values promoted in these two programmes and how they prepare future teachers to deal with Anthropocene challenges will be the focus of analysis. The overriding goals in the graduate profile of these two programmes will serve as a point of departure for the analysis and discussion. 

 

Comparison of two primary education programmes

Reviewing the teacher programme at Karlstad University for primary education, year 4-6, it is clear that SD perspective is relatively absent. In the study plan for teacher education for primary school (years 0-3 and 4-6) one of the learning outcome requirements is related to sustainable development stating that students should be able to demonstrate the ability to make assessments of educational processes on the basis of relevant scientific, social and ethical aspects with special consideration of human rights, especially children’s rights according to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and sustainable development. This exact statement can also be found in the same document regarding teacher programme for primary education at the University of Gothenburg.

 

Moreover, in a review of all the steering documents for all the courses included in the year 4-6 programme at Karlstad University, it is shown that it is only in semester 4 (out of 8) sustainable development is included. During the fourth semester the students can choose to take one out of four specializations (30 credits); music, arts, social science oriented subjects or natural science oriented subjects. In music SD can be found in one of the courses objectives as well as in one of the social science subjects – geography. In the course regarding the natural science subjects SD can be found within the objectives in biology. At the University of Gothenburg the teacher student can choose one of five specializations in their fourth semester. In two of these, technology and natural sciences and the specialization for social sciences includes one course objective dealing with sustainability perspectives respectively. We conclude that sustainability perspectives are very limited during all of the courses for future primary teachers at both Karlstad University and the University of Gothenburg.

 

Due to the aforementioned very limited focus on sustainable development in teacher education at Karlstad University, the teacher education board recently decided on a new policy regarding these issues. According to this policy, all subjects that are included and compassing at least 30 credits should include at least one objective related to sustainable development. However, the main responsibility for including these perspectives are given to the general education core courses which are courses common for all students of the program regardless of their subject specialization. The conclusion is that the focus on sustainable development will increase but a concern remain about how the courses and subjects will have the opportunity to coordinate their work. In addition, no time schedule of the implementation process of the new policy has been decided on. How and when these issues will be addressed at the teacher education programmes at the University of Gothenburg is still unknown. 

 

Discussion

Although, as stated earlier, education and consequently teacher education, is considered playing a key role in implementing the perspectives and notion of sustainable development, we can conclude that in our investigation of two large teacher education programmes in Sweden, these perspectives are seldom occurring. The discussion on how to rethink and remodel teacher education in light of the change (in value, knowledge and skills) the Anthropocene is calling for needs to be emphasized and given more attention.

 

References

Wals, A. E. (2014). Sustainability in higher education in the context of the UN DESD: a review of learning and institutionalization processes. Journal of Cleaner Production, 62, 8-15.

Crutzen, P.J., and Stoermer E.F. (2000). The Anthropocene. Global Change Newsletter 41: 17-18. 

Johnson, B., and Villumsen, G. (2018). Environmental aspects of natural resources intensive development: the case of agriculture. Innovation and Development, 8, 167-188.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2019.
National Category
Other Social Sciences
Research subject
Geography
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:kau:diva-74939OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kau-74939DiVA, id: diva2:1356244
Conference
ESERA 2019, European Science Education Research Association 26-30 Aug Bologna Italy
Available from: 2019-10-01 Created: 2019-10-01 Last updated: 2019-11-14Bibliographically approved

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Christenson, Nina

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