I couldn´t resist: A SWOT analysis of ChatGPT – implications for educational practice and research

Source: https://evaluationcomics.freshspectrum.com/comic/chatgpt-and-plagiarism/

After a very good impromptu explanation of how ChatGPT works and will affect the future of research and education by ELS colleague Auke Westerterp in a homemade videoclip (have a look here), a lively discussion started among colleagues about the pro´s and cons of ChatGPT.

I found myself on the side of being skeptical and, indeed, worried. But there were also colleagues who see AI and chatbots as inevitable and potentially beneficial. In fact, it turned out they were already using it in both research and education, and, upon asking around a bit, I found out that many students are using it to (re)write their papers and to save the time of reading (which apparently is seen as an inefficient activity).

I then tried it out myself and was perplexed by what ChatGPT can create in seconds. I out in key words we use in our RiverCommons project which focuses on things like ´rights to nature´, ´water justice,´ ´decolonization´ and sustainable development, social learning, etc. I put in these words and asked ChatGPT to write a 300-word paper, with references APA style. To convince the project leader – Prof Rutgerd Boelens of Wageningen University´s Water Resource Management Group, I also asked to refer to the work of Boelens in the. article. The result was impressive and could have easily fooled the reviewers of a bunch of journals. To top things off, I asked ChatGTP to include a 100 biography of Rutgerd Boelens.

In fact, a good colleague of mine, also active in sustainability in higher education, Debby Cotton based at the University of Plymouth, submitted a paper to a journal, together with colleagues, to a journal which had been written by ChatGTP. They told the editor beforehand. The editor was in for an experiment and the paper went through a proper review process and… was accepted and then published with a discussion of what happened and what might be possible implications of this. The paper – have a look here – got featured in major newspapers like the Guardian and the Washington Post.

In the meantime, my colleagues working on ICT-supported learning had already started working on a SWOT of the use of ChatGPT in education. When I showed my interest in the debate, they asked me to join. Given the magnitude of the phenomenon, I could not resist and agreed to join. The paper just got published in Innovations in Teaching International and can be downloaded here. Have a look and see what you think. One of my concerns, not highlighted in the paper, is that these technologies will only expand our screen time (videophilia) and further disconnect us from places and people and the relations between them. As such they serve Nasdaq-listed companies and their shareholders most, while further eroding life on this Earth (biophilia). Perhaps, now that the AI is becoming so powerful, it will lead to a new discussion about the purpose of education and people´s motivations to learn. That, in the end, might be the best outcome.

Full citation:

Farrokhnia, M., Seyyed Kazem Banihashem, Omid Noroozi & Arjen Wals (2023) A SWOT analysis of ChatGPT: Implications for educational practice and research, Innovations in Education and Teaching International, DOI: 10.1080/14703297.2023.2195846

High school biology students’ use of values in their moral argumentation and decision-making in times of polarization, confusion and unsustainability

Another paper based on PhD Tore van der Leij just appeared in the Journal of Moral Education. I took the liberty to add a few words to the title… ‘in times of polarization, confusion and unsustainability’ to emphasize the importance of this work.

In this qualitative case study Tore examined the impact of a specially-designed classroom intervention for a group of 15–16-year-old Dutch biology students’ use of values in contemplating five socioscientific issues in the human-nature context. The students worked in small groups to support various aspects of their morality. An ethical matrix was used as a heuristic to explore different arguments and moral values from different perspectives. The collected data consisted of written assignments, group conversations, and individual interviews. The results show that students’ use of values differed from one issue to another. The values they used in their moral decision-making indicated that the influence of the intervention activities, aimed at enhancing a relationship between moral agent (student) and moral object (topic), was limited. The study provides evidence that the intervention positively conduced to students’ cognition of the values that are personally relevant. Recommendations for further theorization, research and practice are discussed.

Here is the link: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/03057240.2023.2185595

Full citaton:Leij, Tote, van der, Martin Goedhart, Lucy Avraamidou & Arjen Wals (2023) High school biology students’ use of values in their moral argumentation and decision-making, Journal of Moral Education, DOI: 10.1080/03057240.2023.2185595

White Paper on Regenerative Higher Education – Rethinking education in times of dysfunction and collapse

Regrettably this white paper is only available in Dutch. Some ot the ideas artuclated in the paper can also be found in The Regenerative Education Podcast Series created by PhD Bas van den Berg see: The Regenerative Education Podcasts – Planting the seeds of change

Ik maak sinds een paar jaar deeluit van een Nederlandse  Community of Practice rondom Regenerative Higher Education bestaande uit PhDs en medewerkers van verschillende universiteiten en hoge scholen. Dit White Paper is het resultaat van de samenwerking in de Community of Practice en is samengesteld door Martine de Wit en gebaseerd op interviews met Bas van den Berg, Daan Buijs, Mieke Lopes Cardozo, Marlies van der Wee en Arjen Wals. Met input van Nina Bohm, Linda de Greef, Michaela Hordijk, Naomie Tieks, Koen Wessels, Rosanne van Wieringen, en Roosmarijn van Woerden. De illustraties en vormgeving zijn verzorgd door Mari Genova.

Het paper vertrekt vanuit de vraag:

Onderwijs dat het beste haalt uit onszelf en onze studenten, op weg naar herstel van de aarde. Hoe komen we daar?

Lees hier ons verhaal en laat ons weten wat resoneert, schuurt of wat het anderzins losmaakt!

A regenerative decolonization perspective on Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) from Latin America – new research

Central Figure in the article:  Regenerative education through decolonial praxis.

Led by former Wageningen University PhD Dr. Thomas Macintyre and current Wageningen University Post-Doc, Dr Daniele Tubino de Souza, I was priviledged to collaborate on this new paper that appeared in the latest issue of Compare: A Journal of Comparative and International Education. This paper provides a Latin American perspective on ESD, with a focus on transformative and participatory learning in community contexts. With a long history of critical pedagogies, Latin America provides a fertile ground for exploring alternative forms of education as a means to address deep-rooted challenges in western traditional strands of education. We start by providing an overview of pertinent educational currents present in Latin America, then ground these perspectives in two case studies carried out by the authors – one from Colombia, the other from Brazil – which explore grassroots initiatives in community settings that utilise different forms of education and learning. We then propose an integrative model to foster alternative educational approaches that might lead to decolonial and regenerative praxis, finishing with a discussion on how Latin American-rooted regenerative decolonisation perspective and praxis can inform global ESD discourses.

You can find the full paper here: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/03057925.2023.2171262

Full citation: Macintyre, T. Tubino de Souza, D. & Wals, A.E.J. (2023) A regenerative decolonization perspective on ESD from Latin America, Compare: A Journal of Comparative and International Education, DOI: 10.1080/03057925.2023.2171262

In search of healthy policy ecologies for education in relation to sustainability: Beyond evidence-based policy and post-truth politics


A new paper just came out in ‘Policy Futures in Education’ that I co-authored with Robert Stratford critiquing evidence-based approaches to policy making in the context of (re)orienting education towards sustainability in times of post-truth and alternative facts. In the aper we pose that there is a rational assumption built into some research projects that policy contexts are influenced by the quality of the evidence. This is, at best, only somewhat true some of the time. Through policy ethnographies, two education researchers working in the context of sustainability discuss their experiences with evidence-based policy. Central to both accounts is how critical messages about such issues as race, wellbeing and sustainability can become diluted and even lost. In the existing ‘politics of unsustainability’, and at a time of ‘post-truth’ politics, these accounts also show the limits of evidence-based policy.

We argue that those working with ‘the evidence’ need to be open about how evidence-based approaches can end up supporting the ‘status quo’. Moreover, while approaches such as knowledge mobilisation emphasise the relational qualities of policy contexts, and the importance of simple compelling narratives for decision-makers, they, like many other practices, do not sufficiently theorise the power structures surrounding knowledge and the policy context. In addition to the careful use of evidence, we argue that there needs to be greater emphasis on building healthy policy ecologies – including far more emphasis on building critical and creative policy alternatives, especially in areas like sustainability and education.

The paper can be found/downloaded here: Healthy Policy Ecologies Paper


Learning-based transformations towards sustainability: a relational approach based on Humberto Maturana and Paulo Freire


Recently a new paper I co-authored with lead author Daniele Tubino Souza and second co-author Pedro Jacobi appeared in Environmental Education Research – see: https://doi.org/10.1080/13504622.2019.1641183 or click:  Relational Pedagogy Freire & Maturana  

Here is the abstract. This paper is a part of Daniele’s PhD work at the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil which Pedro and I co-supervise. The paper is a first attempt to link the thinking of Paulo Freire and Humberto Maturana to each other and to emancipatory sustainability-oriented transformations in urban area’s.


This article investigates the relevance of the work of the Latin-American thinkers Humberto Maturana and Paulo Freire to learning-based transformations towards sustainability. This analysis was inspired by a case study of a Brazilian urban community seeking to develop pathways towards sustainable living and was informed by a review of their key works. The paper aims to obtain a better conceptualization of learning-based transformations and provide insights into collective learning processes focused on advancing sustainable practices. We present notions of the transformative social learning approach that underpins the case study, using the concepts of Maturana and Freire as a lens. Our results indicate the importance of a relational approach in fostering collective learning processes. Finally, we derive three principles that can guide such processes: (1) facilitating transformative interactions between people and places, (2) enabling dialogic interaction within a climate of mutual acceptance, and (3) creating space for ontological pluralism.

One of the two key figures can be seen below – please go to the the publisher’s website to find the paper and the other figures!

Living Spiral Framework – Seeds of Sustainable Transitions


Over the past three years I have been fortunate to be a part of an ISSC supported Transformative Knowledge Network (TKN) called the T-Learning Network (see: T-Learning Network Website). The network has yielded several highly cited academic papers but, fortunately, also more practical ideas, concepts and tools. Three young and talented people in the network -Thomas Macintyre, Martha Chaves and Dylan McGary – co-created a lovely guide in both Spanish and English introducing one of the networks most exciting ideas: the Living Spiral Framework. This guide is targeted at researchers and practitioners interested in sharing their research into transformative and transgressive learning in the field of sustainability, climate change, and social and environmental justice.

In the introduction the guide states:

“We can understand transformative learning as transformations in beliefs, values and practices in a way that helps us live a more socially and ecologically responsible way. Delving deeper into the intricacies of transformation, we arrive at the emerging field of ‘transgressive learning,” a critical and action-oriented form of learning which challenges normalised systems which have become oppressive and detrimental to life.

We believe questioning our unsustainable beliefs, worldviews and practices as well as offering alternatives, is needed for such deeper learning to occur and transgress. To achieve this we need voices and narratives from actors within and outside of academia: from social learning facilitators, to indigenous shamen; from the city-based sustainability practitioners to the rural farmer, to have different perspectives on understanding transformation towards sustainability.

This guide provides a step-by-step guide for discovering how and to what extent, personal and collective learning journeys result in transformations towards sustainability, including the challenges and tensions experienced along the way. Moreover, it will allow you to follow the process cautiously to find your own indicators of transformation, unexpected results and opportunities, as well as other experiences along the way.” (Macintyre, Chaves, McGary, 2018 – p. 8).

Below you see the core of the framework which can be found here in its entirety Living Spiral Framework. If you want to more you can go http://www.transgressivelearning.org or email one of the authors: Thomas Macintyre <thomas.macintyre@gmail.com>

SpiralYou can also read our latest academic paper related to this work in the Journal of Action Research in its recent special issue on action research and climate change here: T-labs and climate change narratives: Co-researcher qualities in transgressive action–research

Environmental and sustainability education in the Benelux countries: research, policy and practices at the intersection of education and societal transformation

The journal Environmental Education Research recently published its third regional special issue covering trends and research in environmental and sustainability education in the BeNeLux countries. Together with Katrien van Poeck (UofGhent, Belgium) and Katrien van Poeck (UofLuxembourg, Luxembourg, I was a co-editor. Earlier regional special issues focussed on the Nordic countries (Scandinavia) and on Germany. Here you find a link to the introductory paper we wrote: BeNeLux Special Issue and here is a link to the Special Issue itself: Routledge Link to SI

Below some more information.


Table of Contents




Just out: Serious games as a catalyst for boundary crossing, collaboration and knowledge co-creation in a watershed governance context


Thanks to the wonderful work mainly of Steven Jean and Wietske Medema I am glad to be part of the above paper that appeared in the latest issue of the Journal of Environmental Management (Jean et al., 2018, JEMA, 223, 1010-1022). You can have a look here: Serious Gaming, Boundary Crossing and Water Governance


Novel methods for enhancing collaboration and interactions are required to ensure that stakeholders and governments are able to develop a shared vision that supports sustainable watershed governance. Particular attention must be placed on integrating stakeholders who would otherwise have limited decision-making power. By crossing professional, ideological and jurisdictional boundaries, stakeholders’ perspectives are more likely to change than when staying within those boundaries. This process, known as boundary crossing, requires boundary objects; either artifacts, people, or institutions that play a bridging role between different boundary spaces. For this study, serious games powered by scientific models are identified as potentially effective boundary objects. A serious game simulation called Aqua Republica was used to organize game simulation events allowing stakeholders to connect in an in-person, informal and novel setting. This exploratory research aims to study the role and impact of serious games as boundary objects to enhancing collaboration and knowledge co-creation. The following research questions are addressed: (1) Do interactions increase over the course of a game simulation event? (2) Does the quality of interactions change over the course of a game simulation event? (3) Are the quantity and quality of interactions affected by pre-existing relationships? And if so, how? (4) How does the relationship between participants change over the course of a game simulation event? As part of this study, four game simulation events were organized that included students, professionals and diverse stakeholder groups working in watershed management contexts across Eastern Canada with 40 participants in total. Participants were divided into teams of 3–5 members and were surveyed and their interactions recorded. An interaction and social network analysis of the audiovisual recordings of each game simulation event indicates that interactions between participants increase in both quantity and quality as the game progresses. The analysis shows that serious game simulations provide an intervention platform not only to facilitate cross-boundary interactions, but also to strengthen relationships between diverse stakeholders, as expressed by an increase in mutual trust and empathy, as well as an improved understanding among the participants of the watershed system and the complex issues at stake.

Reflexively Stumbling towards Sustainability – understanding social learning in regional governance networks


This afternoon of June 8th, one of my PhD students, co-supervised with Dr. PJ Beers of DRIFT in Rotterdam and Prof Peter Feindt of the Humbolt University in Berlin, successfully here beautiful dissertation in the Aula of Wageningen University. You can download the dissertation and the 4 published papers that are a part of the work via the Wageningen University Library shortly. You can also watch the defense still via WUR-TV Getting to the defense and the thesis

Using a social learning configuration to increase Vietnamese smallholder farmers’ adaptive capacity to respond to climate change


Link to the T&F site for the article

My former PhD-student Le Thi Hong Phuong now has a fourth paper from her dissertation which she only defended a few months ago, accepted in Local Environment a T&F journal on justice and sustainability (one of the oldest journals in this area!). Here is the abstract:

Social learning is crucial for local smallholder farmers in developing countries to improve their adaptive capacity and to adapt to the current and projected impacts of climate change. While it is widely acknowledged that social learning is a necessary condition for adaptation, few studies have systematically investigated under which conditions particular forms of social learning are most successful in improving adaptive capacity of the most vulnerable groups. This study aims to design, implement and evaluate a social learning configuration in a coastal community in Vietnam. We make use of various methods during four workshop-based interventions with local smallholder farmers: interviews with key farmers and commune leaders, farmer-to-farmer learning, participatory observations and focus group discussions. The methods for evaluation of social learning configuration include in-depth interviews, focus group discussions and structured survey interviews. Our findings show that the social learning configuration used in this study leads to an increased problem ownership, an enhanced knowledge-base with regard to climate change impacts and production adaptation options, improved ability to see connections and interdependencies and finally, strengthened relationships and social cohesion. The results suggest that increased social learning in the community leads to increase in adaptive capacity of smallholder farmers and improves both their economic and environmental sustainability. We discuss the key lessons for designing learning configurations that can successfully enhance adaptive capacity and smallholder farmers’ agency and responsiveness to the challenges posed by climate change impacts.


(Re-)designing higher education curricula in times of systemic dysfunction: a responsible research and innovation perspective

A new paper coming out of the EnRRich network LivingKnowledge & EnRRich seems ti get a lot of attention considering the number of paper downloads within the first 10 days the paper has appeared online. This is probably because many universities are struggling to find a good way to make education more relevant, responsive, responsible and reflexive in light of global sustainability challenges.


Here is the abstract and a link to Redesigning HE (open access, freely downloadable):

There is an urgent need to address the grand sustainability challenges of our time, and to explore new and more responsible ways of operating, researching, and innovating that enable society to respond to these challenges. The emergent Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) policy agenda can act as a catalyst towards the development of new and more responsible research and innovation efforts. Inevitably, higher education needs to be closely attuned to this need and agenda, by preparing students to engage in RRI efforts. This paper makes a first step towards guiding the embedding of RRI within higher education. It does so by bringing together academic knowledge with phronesis or practical knowledge about what should be done in an ethical, political, and practical sense. It draws on a literature review and on the reflective practices of partners in the European Commission funded project EnRRICH (Enhancing Responsible Research and Innovation through Curricula in Higher Education), as well as on interviews and case studies gathered as part of the project. The paper suggests elements, especially design principles and a competence framework, for (re)designing curricula and pedagogies to equip higher education students to be and to become responsible actors, researchers, and innovators in a complex world, and to address grand sustainability challenges. In addition, this paper proposes that contemporary higher education teaching and learning policies and strategies, especially those promoting neoliberal agendas and marketized practices, need to adopt a more responsible and responsive ethos to foster the renewal of higher education in times of systemic dysfunction.


Higher education Responsible research and innovation Grand sustainability challenges Curricula Competence 


Critical case-studies of non-formal and community learning for sustainable development

Together with UNESCO’s Alexander Leicht and Yoko Mochizuki I co-edited a special issue in the journal International Review of Education on Non-formal and Community Learning for Sustainable Development. Here you find a link to our introductory article.


I am pasting the final two paragraphs of the editorial introduction below:

“If there is any overall conclusion or pattern which might be drawn from all the contributions to this special issue, it is that boundary crossing is becoming a critical element of learning for, within and from sustainable development. This connects well with Vare and Scott’s (2007) notion of ESD 2, but also with the future directions for environmental and sustainability education highlighted in a recent edited volume on this topic by Peter Corcoran et al. (2017). By moving between perspectives, navigating force fields, handling diversity and stepping in and out of one’s comfort zone, new possibilities emerge for rethinking how we work, live, connect and organise our lives. This also implies working on topics and themes in more integrated ways, covering the nexus of, say, water, energy, food, health, equity and climate, rather than trying to zoom in on “just” one of those aspects. Similarly, the SDGs can only be meaningfully addressed when viewed in their relationship with each other. Boundary crossing between forms of learning will be necessary as well, blending formal, non-formal and informal forms of learning on the one hand, and, for instance, experiential, social, place-based and ICT-supported learning on the other. The result might be a learning ecology or an ecology of learning, a concept used by George Siemens (2005) which requires the integration of principles explored by chaos, network, complexity and self-organisation theories.”

“As the target year for the achievement of the 2030 Agenda with its 17 SDGs is approaching, new forms of governance, education, learning and capacity-building will need to be supported which will enable blended forms of learning in vital partnerships between societal actors seeking to live more lightly and equitably on Earth, using their own context (historically, culturally, economically, socially and ecologically) as a starting point. This also means investing in capacity building for boundary-crossing, brokering relationships and building trust and social cohesion, as these processes and properties seem critical for social learning and transformation within communities. The cases featured in this special issue are only a few of many that exist around the world, but most are not researched, documented and shared very well, and herein lies another challenge: making learning towards sustainability in communities more visible and explicit, and finding better mechanisms for sharing them, not just through special issues in a peer-reviewed journal, but also in ways which can more directly inform, or rather, engage, policy and practice.”

Environmental Education in Asia – Special Issue in the Japanese Journal of EE


This special issue edited by Shinichi Furihata and Sachi Ninomiya-Lim from Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology and Tokai University respectively,  is the result of a 2-year collaborative project involving environmental education (EE) societies/ associations from Japan, Korea, Taiwan, North America, and Australia. In the editorial introduction the following is stated:

“The aim of the project was to create a platform to share ideas, practices, and theories of EE in the Asian region, with English as the common language. The discussion was organized around five core themes: 1) Development, current situation, and challenges of EE in formal education; 2) Development, current situation, and challenges of EE in non-formal education; 3) Research trends in EE; 4) Insights for EE in Asia from outside of Asia; 5) Review, comparison, and synthesis of findings to go beyond a presentation of EE in various countries and instead highlight the recurring transversal issues. We hope this special issue will contribute to furthering dialogue among EE scholars and practitioners in Asia, and to building bridges between EE in Asia and other regions.

The Japanese Journal of Environmental Education (JJEE), published by the JSOEE/JSFEE since 1991, has provided EE researchers and practitioners with an important space to share their ideas, thoughts, methods, and evaluative analyses, and to participate in theoretical discussions, etc., similar to many EE journals published in other countries and regions. However, since most of JJEE articles are written in Japanese (with summaries in English), its readership is essentially limited to Japanese language users, most of whom reside in Japan. Thus, although the JJEE has become a critical platform for communication among Japanese EE researchers and practitioners, there is a need to expand these discussions to a wider, global network, so that Japanese EE professionals may participate in international and transnational debates on issues of wider relevance in EE. Similarly, EE research in different journals published in Asian countries, including Korea and Taiwan, is mostly written in the local language and is therefore largely inaccessible to people who do not read these languages. The aim of this special issue, therefore, was to create a space where such discussions may be shared and connected. In addition, we decided to invite several prominent international researchers to provide their insights, ideas, and suggestions on developing EE in Asia, increasing Asian participation in the global EE arena, and promoting collaboration on EE with different countries and regions around the world.”

I was asked to write a reflective response paper together with Peter Blaze Corcoran and Joseph Weakland in which we look ahead to the future of EE in the region and beyond. Our paper titles “Preparing for the Ecocene: Envisioning futures for environmental and sustainability education” is based on the introduction to the recent book we edited for Wageningen Academic Publishers (see elsewhere in this blog). All papers are available as open-access and can be found here: Link to the entire Special Issue  You can find our closing paper in which we introduce the notion of the imaginary Ecocene here: Preparing for the Ecocene: Envisioning futures for environmental and sustainability education

Radical ruralities in practice: Negotiating buen vivir in a Colombian network of sustainability – new article!

The Journal of Rural Studies just released a new paper on the conceptualisation and realization of buen vivit in a Colombian sustainability network. Martha Chaves as a part of her PhD-work (see earlier blog posts on this) led a team of authors that also included Thomas Macintyre, Gerard Verschoor and myself.


This paper explores the emerging concept of buen vivir –  interpreted as integrative and collective wellbeing  – as it is being envisioned and practiced by a network of sustainability initiatives in Colombia. As an example of a transition narrative currently taking place in Latin America and beyond, buen vivir represents a turn towards a more biocentric, relational and collective means of understanding and being in the world. Yet despite the many discourses into buen vivir (many of which tout it as an alternative to neoliberal models of development), there is a general lack of research into its varied forms of application, especially in terms of lived experiences. Drawing on the new ruralities literature, this paper explores the extent to which buen vivir visions and practices represent radical new ruralities e so-called alternatives to development. Data were collected from individuals and ecological communities in predominantly rural areas who are members of the Council of Sustainable Settlements of the Americas (CASA), a
network which promotes many of the principles of buen vivir. Through participatory methods, results demonstrate that CASA visions are based on constructing territorial relations through intercultural knowledge exchange and experimentation into alternative lifestyles. Despite the substantial challenges and contradictions of putting these visions into practice, we argue that lived experiences promote processes of self-reflection on what buen vivir really is or could be. We hold that the inclusive nature of buen vivir offers opportunities for diverse peoples to cohere around shared meanings of the ‘good life,’
while providing the freedom to live variations depending on social and ecological context.

Here’s the DOI: //dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jrurstud.2017.02.007

For a sneak preview you can also have a look here: Chavesetal2017RadicalRuralities