Arjen Wals is a Professor of Social Learning and Sustainable Development. He also is a UNESCO Chair in the same field. Wals has worked at Wageningen University since 1992 in various departments. He is a guest professor at IDPP at Gothenburg University since 2014. His research focuses on learning processes that contribute to a more sustainable world. A central question in his work is how to create conditions that support new forms of learning that take full advantage of the diversity, creativity and resourcefulness that is all around us, but so far remains largely untapped in our search for a world that is more sustainable than the one currently in prospect. Wals has been involved in a number of projects in Africa that seek to make curricula more responsive to current societal and labour market needs and challenges posed by (un)sustainability. Popular books include: 'Higher Education and the Challenge of Sustainability (Kluwer Academic, 2004) and Social Learning towards a Sustainable World (Wageningen Academic, 2007).
Regenerative forms of higher education are emerging, and required, to connect with some of the grand transition challenges of our times. This paper explores the lived experience of 21 students learning to navigate a regenerative form of higher education in the Mission Impact course at The Hague University of Applied Sciences. This semester-length course ran for two iterations with the intention of connecting the students with local transitions towards a more circular society, one where products are lasting and have multiple lives when they are shared, refurbished, or become a source for a new product. At the end of each iteration, the students reflected on their experience using the Living Spiral Framework, which served as basis for an interpretative phenomenological analysis of their journey navigating this transformative course. The results of this study include four themes; (1) Opting in—Choosing RHE, (2) Learning in Regenerative Ways, (3) Navigating Resistance(s), and (4) Transformative Impacts of RHE. These themes can be used by practitioners to design and engage with regenerative forms of higher education, and by scholars to guide further inquiry. View Full-Text
Earlier this month the 8th Report from the Global University Network fir Innovation (GUNi) was published with a wealth of contributions critiquing current resilient modes and models of education and outlinig alternative one in light of the current systemic global dysfunction we find ourselves in. I was asked to contribute a chapter on transgressive learning. The link to the chapter is here
The full citation for my chapter is: Wals, AEJ (2022) Transgressive learning, resistance pedagogy and disruptive capacity building as levers for sustainability. In: Higher Education in the World 8 – Special issue New Visions for HigherEducation, Barcelona: Global University Network for Innovation (GUNi). Open access: www.guni-call4action.org, p216-222.
One of the Swedish PhD-Candidates I have been working with over the last few years, Julia Fries, based at Stockholm University, is co-organising two fascinating workshops focusing on drama-based approaches in higher education for sustainability.
Below you find an invitation to participate in two international workshops on new formats for Sustainability teaching, funded by the Swedish Research Council and organised by Stockholm Resilience Center and the Department for Teaching and Learning at Stockholm University.
The project explores how drama-based methods can support reflective, embodied and transformative learning about sustainability amongst higher education students. The research ambition is to further current understanding of the role of experiential learning and how these methods support such learning. The format designed will allow to both support pedagogic development in participants academic teaching practice, and address the research questions.
Two international workshops will bring together drama educators and educators in fields related to sustainability, to share different drama-based, interactive methods and explore what these can bring to education in sustainability sciences or sustainability in other subject areas.
Quote from project description:
This project concerns teaching and learning for Sustainability in Higher Education. The cross-disciplinary field of sustainability can be characterised as extremely unsettled and value-loaded, a challenging academic subject for both teachers and students. Consequently, adequate teaching methods has to be developed in order to tackle sustainability issues in a creative and inclusive way. This has been recognised in relation to primary and secondary education but not so much at university level. Attempts are made to achieve this, by adopting a less traditional teaching approach and relation to the world outside the university. Based on this, we propose two explorative workshops for university teachers/researchers. The purpose of the first workshop is to introduce and explore a set of highly interactive teaching approaches to a group of university teachers/researchers in Scandinavia and Europe. After the first workshop, these teaching approaches will be applied, tried out and documented, as part of the participants ongoing teaching at their universities. The purpose of the second workshop is to evaluate these interactive approaches, by sharing teaching experiences and learning outcomes among students in higher education. The overarching aim is to explore and compare a set of interactive teaching approaches, in terms of applicability and student impact in Higher Education for Sustainability. Based on the outcome, scientific papers will be presented and/or a book will be published.
Practicalities: The first workshop will be in Stockholm 6-9 Sept. 2022 and the second in May or June 2023. Thanks to a grant from the Swedish Research Council we are able to offer 15 participants free meals and accommodation, but travel expenses are not included in the offer. Participants are expected to take part in both workshops. A detailed program for the first event will be presented later this spring. Questions can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org or t.wall@ ljmu.ac.uk
This paper recently appeared in International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education. It explores students’ sense of community and belonging in an online course on environmental and sustainable education during times of physical distancing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Using a case study approach, the results show that students perceived a sense of community that was collectively build during the four week program. Sense of community was linked to and facilitated by the learning environment and the educators’ and students’ role throughout the course. Prominent factors here are interaction and inclusion created with mutual effort by design, the educator and student.
This research arose after the course ELS-31806 Environmental Education and Learning for Sustainability was converted as an ‘offline’ course into an online course due to COVID-19. The original content of the course enables students to systematically discuss important concerns in the development of an effective curriculum and/or operation for the environment and sustainable development using a range of instrumental and emancipatory approaches. But foremost ELS-31806 is a course that has always been, well appreciated and highly valued by participants for its highly experiential and hands-on approach.
However, due to COVID-19 this year’s course (2020) was changed into a less experiential on-line format mediated by Zoom for interaction and by Brightspace for course structure and organisation. This somewhat ad-hoc and sudden departure from the traditional successful format, lowered the instructors, and probably also, the students’ expectations about the course’ ability to create a vibrant learning community. Yet, contrary to pre-course expectations, ‘something’ (i.e. a sense) arose over the course of four weeks online education that both students and staff considered to be special or meaningful. These hunches got confirmed several weeks after by Wageningen UR’s student evaluation system PACE which revealed that the students highly valued the course.
We were intrigued by the question of how this online edition evoked similar, or nearly similar outcomes to its offline counterpart. After first checking whether our hunches were right about the course and what might explain the high evaluation marks, we centre in the paper’s main question:
What are key characteristics of an online course that fosters subjectification (personal development and inner-sustainability in relation to others and the other) and creates a sense of community?
The paper was led by former MsC student Robbert Hesen and co-authored by myself and ELS Postdoc Rebekah Tauritz.
Recently a major review was published by the Mathma Ghandi Institute on the history, state and desired future of education in light of current global challenges. Hundreds of scholars contributed to the 10 chapters spanning almost 400 pages – see the ToC below.
While I am somewhat allergic to ‘evidence-based’ – mainly because of its pre-occupation with measurement, proof and the truth which typically marginalises meaning-making, inclusion of alternative ways of knowing and social emotional and embodied forms of learning – I did sign on to co-lead Chapter 8 on Curriculum and Pedagogy in a Changing World, along with Curriculum Guru William Pinar and emerging scholar and activist Thomas Macintyre.
We were supported by 16 authors from Asia, Latin America, North America, Africa and Europe. The resulting chapter, is not so much evidence-based but rather is evidence informed combined with the collective wisdom of all contributors.
You can download our chapter 8 on Curriculum and Pedagogy here. The entire report can be found here.
Wals, A., Pinar, W., Macintyre, T., Chakraborty, A., Johnson-Mardones, D., Waghid, Y., Tusiime, M., Le Grange, L. LL, Razak, D.A., Accioly, I., Xu, Y., Humphrey, N., Iyengar, R., Chaves, M., Herring, E., Vickers, E.A., Santamaria, R.D.P., Korostelina, K.V. and Pherali, T. (2022) ‘Curriculum and pedagogy in a changing world’ in Vickers, E.A., Pugh, K. and Gupta, L. (eds.) Education andcontext in Reimagining education: The International Science and Evidence BasedEducation Assessment [Duraiappah, A.K., Atteveldt, N.M. van et al. (eds.)]. New Delhi: UNESCO MGIEP.
Here is the latest paper on a research project led by PhD Candidate Siri Pisters that appeared in the Journal of Transformative Education. Thie article explores learning processes that underpin ecovillages as place based ‘sustainability initiatives’. Through the theoretical lens of place- based transformative learning (PBTL), developed in earlier work led by Siri as well (Pisters et al., 2019, 2020), empirical data from life-story interviews and photovoice sessions from three ecovillages is analysed and discussed. The results support, illustrate and deepen the meaning of the four dimensions of the theoretical framework: connection to place, compassionate connection, creativity and transgression (Figure 1, below). They show how the co-existence of ‘community’ and ‘disruption’ is essential in PBTL where community brings connection, cohesion and stability to a change process whereas disruption paves the way for disrupting old structures and experiment with new ones. This article shows how a change in inner consciousness is related to alternative practices and structures that re-define relationships with ourselves, other humans and the material, more-than-human world.
Pisters SR, Vihinen H, Figueiredo E, Wals AEJ. ‘We Learned the Language of the Tree’ Ecovillages as Spaces of Place-Based Transformative Learning. Journal of Transformative Education. March 2022. doi:10.1177/15413446211068550
This 5 minute video was recorded at WEEC 2022 in Prague by Alex Kudryavtsev – a research associate at Cornell University for the “Environmental Education & Community Engagement” online course by Cornell and NAAEE. I introduce transdisciplinary, transgressive and transformative learning in the context of citizens monitoring air pollution s a form of citizen science. I use the city of Rotterdam in The Netherlands as an example (althoughI do some justice to the city of Rotterdam as my example is somewhat dated:. it is a short video and much more is to be said about Rotterdam as the city government now pro-actively works with citizens in an air quality monitoring network. ‘Luchtbrug’ see: https://www.themayor.eu/en/a/view/rotterdam-citizens-concerned-with-air-quality-form-a-club-8089
I feel very privileged to be part of one of the two major International River Research projects led by Wageningen UR colleague Prof. Rutgerd Boelens: Riverhood and RiverCommons. Riverhood and River Commons are both 5-year research projects that focus on enlivening rivers, river co-governance initiatives, and new water justice movements.
Riverhood is funded by the European Research Council (ERC) (Grant Agreement No 101002921) and aims to build groundbreaking transdisciplinary concepts and methodological tools to analyze and support new water justice movements’ institutions, strategies and practices for equitable and sustainable water governance. It does so through comparing initiatives in Latin America (Ecuador and Colombia) and Europe (Netherlands and Spain). The focus will be on movements promoting novel concepts and practices such as Rights of Nature, new water cultures or nature-inclusive hydraulics, to name just a few.
RiverCommons is funded by Wageningen University’s Interdisciplinary Research and Education Fund (INREF) and unites chair groups from the social and natural sciences, as well as partners worldwide. Its objective is to develop transdisciplinary concepts and methods for research, education, and multi-stakeholder interactions to understand and support river co-governance initiatives and sustainable socio-ecological river systems in Asia, Africa, Latin America and Europe.
While each of the projects has its specific objectives, activities, regions, and partners, there is immense potential for synergies and cross-pollination. Riverhood and River Commons will therefore be integrated in multiple ways, to together build a diverse and wide network of river scholars, activists, and institutions that commonly aim to understand and strengthen river co-governance around the world.
Both projects are united by a common framework that illuminates the different facets and complexities of river systems. The framework encompasses four dimensions: River-as-Ecosociety, River-as-Territory, River-as-Subject, and River-as-Movement. You can find more information about it in Concepts.
Another important component of both projects is the development of Environmental Justice Labs (Riverhood) and River Co-governance Labs (River Commons) to be organized in the case study sites to co-create knowledge and mobilize and exchange ideas for change.
World’s rivers are fundamental to social and natural well-being but profoundly affected by mega-damming and pollution. In response to top-down and technocratic approaches, in many places riverine communities practice forms of ‘river co-governance’, integrating ecological, cultural, political, economic and technological dimensions. In addition, new water justice movements (NWJMs) have emerged worldwide to creatively transform local ideas for ‘enlivening rivers’ into global action and vice versa. The Summer School aims to provide PhD students who conduct research on these ‘river commons’ and NWJMs with transdisciplinary concepts and approaches for studying their emerging ideas, concepts, proposals and strategies. The training thereby focuses on conceptualizing river systems in all senses, and capacity-building for (understanding and supporting) river knowledge co-creation and democratisation from the bottom up.
“It’s the economy, stupid!” was a slogan Bill Clinton used in his successful campaign against George W. Bush to point out that in the end it is the economy that matters most to voters. Now 30 years later this slogan has new meaning as we come to see the moral and planetary bankruptcy of old-style market and growth driven economic thinking that normalises unsustainability. Sadly, much higher (business) education still echoes and reproduces dysfunctional old-style economic thinking, even in universities that claim to have sustainability at the heart of their operations… even the SDG related to the economy – SDG 8 – seems to do so as it focuses on realizing ‘economic GROWTH and decent work’. It is hight time that alternative economic thinking takes root in our education – varying from distributive economic thinking to regenerative economic thinking to circular economic thinking to a letting go of economic thinking altogether to make room for alterative value propositions.What are the implications of such alternatives for how and what we teach? how students learn? how we connect with stakeholders around the university?
These and other questions will be addressed at the Higher Education Summit 2022 from 6-8 September 2022 in Hasselt, Belgium! Under the theme “Daring to transform learning for a future-proof economy” the summit will bring together those who wish to transform higher education for the benefit of a “safe and just space for humanity” (Raworth, 2017): people who study, teach, research, and contribute to governance at higher education institutions, and representatives of the business world, government, and civil society.
The organisers invite you to join us to rethink the role of higher education institutions in shaping the economy. Whether we prefer to call it a doughnut economy, circular economy, or regenerative economy – we all aspire for a world in which humans can flourish in close harmony with a thriving planet. And we know that learning is key to driving this transformation (Berlin Declaration on Education for Sustainable Development, 2021).
We are looking forward to celebrating your wonder! The Call for Contributions is open! Proposals are welcome until 15 March 2022. We will let you know by 29 April 2022 whether your proposal has been accepted. Your proposal should not exceed 1 A4 page, including references. You may include pictures or other visual representations. Proposals will be assessed by the scientific committee based on the following principles:
Potential for (societal and/or economic) transformation
Academic or other relevant quality for theory, practice or policy
Originality and level of innovativeness
Adequateness of mode of presentation, including the degree of co-creation with the audience
This is a wonderful podcast about a guy who unintentionally starts-up a counter ‘actual conspiracy’ movement during a ‘women against Trump’ protest that was escalating when ‘women for Trump also showed up. He wondered – what will happen if I would hold up a poster about a totally different ludicrous position? He wrote on the back of an old poster: ‘Birds Aren’t Real! Listen to what happened. Worth every minute of it. Here is the link.
Tomorrow afternoon the ESD group of the Faculty of Education of Gothenburg University is hosting a seminar on Education for Sustainable Development in the ‘Capitalocene’ which is based on a Special Issue that just appeared inEducational Philosophy and Theory 54(3), 2022: Here you find the link Educational Philosophy and Theory: Vol 54, No 3 (Current issue) (tandfonline.com). During the seminar editors and contributors – including someone I have always greatly admired and had the pleasure to work with for more that 30 (!) years now: Bob Jickling. as well as other wonderful invited experts will discuss questions like:
– What urgent future research trajectories do we see for Education for sustainable development in the Anthro-Capitalocene?
– What does the Anthropo-Capitalocene mean for educational practice? “As educators, working within these multiple tipping points, where do we stand?” (Do we still believe in education?)
Below you find the program and the Zoom-link:
Monday, 7th February at 3:15 – 5:00 p.m. (CET) on Zoom:
On 8 February 2022 SPARK the Movement organizes an interactive online meeting with regional, national and European educators around the question:
How can we mobilize the imaginative power of the region, thus learning together how to take up global challenges and focus on the local impact we can make?
SPARK’s conviction is that sustainability needs to be a part of the ‘everyday fabric of life’. The scale of a region seems to be a most suitable level to examine and enact sustainability in day-to-day life and in everyday business. The meeting is organised by United Nation’s supported Regional Centre of Expertise ‘Fryslan’ in The Netherlands. I will give a short introduction to the Whole School Approach as a key driver of sustainability.
It is my pleasure to share two calls for contributions in relation to the development of a Whole School Approach (WSA) to Sustainability. The first one relates to an international hybrid conference organized by the Dutch government that will take place in The Netherlands and partially online late March of 2022, the second one relates to an edited Volume on the topic in the Springer SDG4 Series on Quality Education.
Call for exemplary practices of a Whole School Approach to Sustainable Development
The Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs and Climate Policy have commissioned a report to provide practical examples of how a Whole Institution/ Whole School Approach (WSA) is being used in practice around the world to engage with SDG4 – Quality Education, especially in relation to sustainable development issues as covered by the other SDGs. The reports aim is to highlight different aspects of a WSA – curriculum development, pedagogical innovation, school management and leadership, school-community relationships, professional development of staff, and the school as a ‘living laboratory’ for experimenting with healthy, equitable, democratic, and ecologically sustainable living – especially how these aspects can be integrated to mutually strengthen each other.
We are particularly interested in so-called critical case-studies that do not only highlight best-practice strategies and success stories, but also share the struggles, set-backs and challenges underneath and ways to overcome them. The report will be published as part of the WSA International Conference happening in The Netherlands on the 30th-31st March.
If you know of such a school (primary, secondary, or vocational) from your country that can be used as an exemplary example of a WSA in action, or want further details, please contact Rosalie Mathie via email. email@example.com before February 15th so she can still contact people connected to the exemplary case.
2 Call for Abstracts Springer SDG4 Series Whole School Approaches to Sustainability – Principles, Practices and Prospects
Ingrid Eikeland, Brigitte Bjønness, Astrid Sinnes and Arjen Wals (Eds)
Schools across the globe are seeking to respond to emerging topics like; climate change, biodiversity loss, healthy food and food security, and global citizenship. They are increasingly encouraged to do so by educational policies that recognize the importance of these topics and by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
While there is recognition that such topics should not be added on to an already full curriculum, but rather require more systemic and integrated approaches, doing so in practice has proven to be difficult. This edited Volume seeks to engage educators, school leaders, educational policy-makers and scholars of sustainability in education in key principles, critical perspectives, generative processes and tools that can help realize a Whole School Approach to Sustainability. The book will contain three sections: 1) Principles & Perspectives, 2) Critically Reflexive Contextual Case Studies (Early Childhood, Primary, Secondary and Vocational Education) and 3) Synthesis: Challenges and Prospects.
The editors are inviting abstracts (no more than 500 words) of potential chapters. Contributions can be research-based (spanning different genres of research) but can also be more conceptual in the form of critically reflexive essays. Abstracts should indicate a best fit with one of the sections and need to be accompanied with short bios of the author(s) and, if possible, references to prior publications that relate to the topic.
Please send your initial ideas for a contribution or any queries you may have to: firstname.lastname@example.org before March 1st. All abstracts will be reviewed by the editors and a selection will be made for further development into a full manuscript to be published by the end of 2022.
Last month the first of three microseasons of The Regenerative Education Podcast has been published on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Google Podcasts. In each episode, one om my PhDs, Bas van den Berg who is director of education of the Mission Zero centre of expertise at The Hague University of Applied Sciences, engages with a leading practitioner, professor, teacher, and/or activist that is trying to connect their educational practice to making the world a more equitable, sustainable and regenerative place.
The podcast aims to discover the design dispositions and elements of a regenerative education for the ecological university. An ecological approach to education that nurtures the appropriate participation in the healing of places and self in times of socio-ecological crisis. Bas van de Berg did a remarkeable job in pooling together a great group of people who provide wonderful insights in how to create cultures and forms of education, teaching…