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Different secondary school subject areas contributions to collaboration in environmental and sustainability teaching
Karlstad University, Faculty of Health, Science and Technology (starting 2013), Department of Environmental and Life Sciences (from 2013). Stockholms universitet. (ROSE, SMEER)
Karlstad University, Faculty of Health, Science and Technology (starting 2013), Department of Environmental and Life Sciences (from 2013). (SMEER)ORCID iD: 0000-0001-8735-2102
Karlstad University, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (starting 2013), Department of Political, Historical, Religious and Cultural Studies (from 2013). (CSD)
2019 (English)Conference paper, Oral presentation with published abstract (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

According to the curricula in many countries, teachers in the subject areas of science, social science and language are expected to collaborate on cross-curricular issues such as sustainable development (SD). In Sweden this is the case in the nine-year compulsory school (Education, 2011). This study is based in Sweden and investigates the similarities and differences in the responses of ten teacher groups (forty-three teachers in total) to questions about their contributions in their own subject areas to environmental and sustainability education (ESE).

There are previously some barriers identified to the implementation of ESE in a cross-curricular way. In a large quantitative study including about 3300 Swedish upper secondary teachers, comparisons were made regarding teachers inclusion of ESE within different subject areas (Borg, Gericke, Höglund, & Bergman, 2012). In that study it was found that language teachers do not always feel at ease with ESE teaching, and more than 41% of language teachers stated that they did not include SD issues in their teaching, while 34% stated (the highest percentage of the three subject areas) that they lacked the necessary knowledge expertise. In contrast, especially the social science teachers and to somewhat less degree the science teachers included this perspective.

Regardless of the problems shown in previous studies the overall aim of this study is to understand what cross-curricular teaching in teacher teams can achieve in relation ESE. All teachers in compulsory school in Sweden are organized in cross-curricular teams of various subject teachers teaching the same student group, named lärarlag in Swedish and here denoted as teacher teams. Moreover, given that cross-curricular ESE teaching is stated as important in the Swedish curriculum, it is important to find out the potential possibilities for cross-curricular collaborations in ESE teaching. Are teachers already involved in collaborations, are they successful, and if so how? If not, how might they achieve this curricular aim to provide students with a holistic, yet diversified, perspective on ESE including many disciplinary dimensions? Teaching gaps for students may occur that no subject area can cover, while other issues or topics may be taught multiple times leading to poor progression.

The research question is: What are the specific curricular and pedagogical contributions of different subject areas, such as science, social science and language, in cross-curricular settings when teaching environmental and sustainability issues?

The theoretical framework of this study takes its departure from didactic analysis as an integrative model in which the structure of the subject matter is related to teachers and students through the processes of teaching and learning (Klafki, 1995). This study looks for differences and similarities in teachers’ argumentations about the didactical questions of what, how and why their subject area is important and how it contributes to cross-curricular ESE teaching. The main contribution of this study is to fill the gap in ESE research relating to teachers’ views of complex environmental and sustainability issues from different subject area perspectives.

Semi-structured group interviews were used to collect data about teachers’ apprehensions of and reflections on their teaching practices (Kvale & Brinkmann 2009). 10 groups (consisting of 3-10 teachers) of teachers of science (biology, chemistry and physics), social science (civics, history, geography and religion) and language (Swedish, English, German, French and Spanish) were interviewed. In this study the data is treated as a group voice from teachers teaching in a specific subject area. In order to identify a common teaching and curriculum approach in each subject area the teachers’ discussions and responses are analysed in relation to the main didactical questions of what, how and why. Phase 1 – What The aim was to gather data from the individual teachers in each group before the group discussion. This ensured that each teacher’s voice was heard individually. In group situations there is always a risk that some participants will dominate the discussion. Phase 2 – What The aim was to gather data from the teachers’ discussions without interference from the research leader. Phase 3 – How The aim was to gather data about curricular and pedagogical changes that had occurred in the teaching. Summary of the three phases – Why The teachers’ arguments about the long-term purposes of their teaching stem from the session on phases 1, 2 and 3 constitute the data for the why dimension. The common aspects and specific curricular contributions of the different subject areas are studied by analysis teachers’ responses to questions about the curricular and pedagogical qualities of what, how and why. What The analytical question posed to the data in interview phases 1 and 2 is: Which content and abilities relating to ESE are described by the teacher group? How – teaching aspects In interview phase 3, the teachers discuss how they conduct and change their teaching. This data is analysed using analytical questions relating to essential educational aspects of environmental and sustainability education (Sund, 2008; Sund & Wickman, 2011). Why – the object of responsibility In order to identify the teacher groups’ long-term purposes, all the data from interview phases 1, 2 and 3 are analysed using the analytical question (Sund & Wickman, 2008): What does this teacher group, in this specific subject area, really care about together when discussing their ESE teaching?

In order to answer the research question, the teachers’ responses are analysed using the didactical questions what, how and why. The results show that teacher collaborations in different subject areas can be fruitful in that they stress different yet complimentary aspects of ESE teaching. The potential important role of language teachers in ESE teaching is one of the main contributions of this study indicates a need for further research on how to improve language teachers’ confidence to voluntarily join and experience ESE collaborations. Science and social science teachers call for more time to plan and work together, whereas language teachers are often asked to collaborate by the school management (Sund, Gericke, & Bladh, Submitted). Each subject area has a specific ESE focus, and thereby is a possibility to contribute and complement each other through content, methods, dimensions and purposes, as in a true collaborative teaching. Such cross-curricular settings are able to offer students facts, opportunities to develop abilities through knowledge in action and support personal empowerment. In the process of cross-curricular ESE teaching, students’ individual identity-making is important. According to Celce-Murcia (1991), the process of self-realisation and relating to and communicating with other people are two common teaching approaches amongst language teachers. This can be an important part of making ESE knowledge powerful for learners in their everyday use and in contributing towards a more sustainable future. This could be language teachers’ main contribution to a cross-curricular collaborative work on ESE. The overall aim of ESE is to create action competent citizens (Jensen & Schnack, 1997). In subject area collaborations where many cross-curricular and societal transformations of knowledge are involved (Gericke, Hudson, Olin-Scheller, & Stolare, 2018).

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2019.
National Category
Educational Sciences
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:kau:diva-75281OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kau-75281DiVA, id: diva2:1360621
Conference
Oral presentation at ECER (European Conference on Educational Research) held by EERA (European Educational Research Association) in Hamburg, Germany 2-6th of September.
Available from: 2019-10-14 Created: 2019-10-14 Last updated: 2019-11-20Bibliographically approved

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Per, SundGericke, NiklasBladh, Gabriel

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