You can find the 17 minute conversation on Spotify here!
Another most interesting paper just came out in the journal Pedagogy, Culture and Society. This time led by – now former PhD candidate – Koen Wessels who received his PhD last June. Here is some key info on the paper and its key concept ‘pedagogy of entanglement’ which is at the heart of Koen’s research.
Confronted by myriad interconnected societal challenges, this paper asks: what kind of pedagogy does justice to the experience and challenge of living in a complex world? Departing from a critical reading of a preparative-logic to education, this paper emphasises students’ entangledness: more-or-less consciously, students are uniquely shaped-by and shapers-of complex societal challenges in a here-and-now sense. Utilising this premise, the paper develops a set of pedagogical perspectives that might inspire and help teachers to design their own responses to particular complex societal challenges in their unique teaching contexts. Drawing on emerging outcomes from a narrative diffractive inquiry with 12 teachers as co-researchers and engaging with complexity thinking, six perspectives are presented and discussed: entanglement-orientedness, entanglement-awareness, hopeful action, inquiry within complex societal challenges, practicing perceptiveness, and practicing integrity. Together, these perspectives offer a heuristic for embracing complexity in education.
You can get to the paper via this link: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/14681366.2022.2108125
Full citation: Koen R. Wessels, Cok Bakker, Arjen E.J. Wals & George Lengkeek (2022) Rethinking pedagogy in the face of complex societal challenges: helpful perspectives for teaching the entangled student, Pedagogy, Culture & Society, DOI: 10.1080/14681366.2022.2108125
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
You can find the entire book at www.guni-call4action.org
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 Higher Education, 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 email@example.com or t.wall@ ljmu.ac.uk
Are you interested? Please register here: https://forms.gle/frRFxrbgdoL8mrabA
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.
Hesen, R., Wals, A.E.J. and Tauritz, R.L. (2022), “Creating a sense of community and space for subjectification in an online course on sustainability education during times of physical distancing”, International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, Vol. 23 No. 8, pp. 85-104. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJSHE-07-2021-0270
Triggered by these results we decided to investigate what might explain these results.
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.
One exciting immediate prospect and possibility for PhD’s from around the world is our Summer School “River Lives and Living Rivers: Towards a transdisciplinary conceptualization”
Here is the short introduction to the course:
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
- Thematic relevance
- Originality and level of innovativeness
Adequateness of mode of presentation, including the degree of co-creation with the audience
Last Fall a consortium of which I am proud to be a part, along with the Education & Learning Sciences Group of Wageningen University received funding from the UK-government to a so-called GCRF Network Plus on Transforming Education for Sustainable Futures. The network is co-ordinated out of the University of Bristol and includes partners in India, Rwanda, Somalia/Somaliland, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands. TESF undertakes collaborative research to Transform Education for Sustainable Futures. We have just released an introductory video (see above) and just released a timely paper:
Here is the link to the briefing paper:
This paper addresses the following topics:
- What is Transformative Public Education
- Why Transformative Public Education matters to the COVID-19 response
- Why Transformative Public Education matters for addressing long-term underlying risks to communities
- Examples of Transformative Public Education responses to COVID-19
- Suggestions for governments and state welfare actors seeking to work with Transformative Public Education
- Suggestions for community leaders working with Transformative Public Education
- Transformative Public Education in times of physical distancing
- Key readings and resources
On the TESF website you will also find other resources you may find of interest. Have a look here TESF Home Page
This is TESF’s first response to the C-19 situation, and we would like to see it widely distributed, given the timely nature of this topic. Please do all you can to share it widely across your networks. https://tesf.network/resource/transformative-public-education/
This new book published by Brill just came out and I am pleased to have been ablte contribute to its contents together with one of my colleagues from the University of Gothenburg, Anne Algers. Our chapter is part of a rich collection of chapters focusing on ways of opening education to allow for more dynamic forms of learning to emerge in a world that is trying to grapple with many of the existential and ecological crises that, both ironically and sadly, humanity itself has created. The chapter that Anne and I wrote (have look at the pre-print here: Sustainability_orientedOpenLearningAlgersWals2020) asks the question of “How can open education play a role in making academia more responsive and responsible in addressing ill-defined and ambiguous, but ever so urgent, sustainable development challenges?” In our chapter, a case study from the field of sustainable development of food systems provides a narrative that illustrates the possible impact of open education; and the value of a culture of openness to individuals, to a community, and to society.
First, we provide a contextual background on the implications of openness in higher education. Second, we introduce the subject of sustainable development (SD) of our global food systems; and third, we discuss the concept of education for sustainable development (ESD). Fourth, by means of thick description (Geertz, 1973), we report a case study on open education which we discuss in light of learning theory, critical pedagogy, and sustainable development.
In the end we argue for a radical interpretation of open education which we refer to as transformative sustainability-oriented open education, where ”open” refers to inviting and expressing critique and marginalized perspectives in controversial societal issues, while transformative refers to enabling learners to bring about change.
Suggested citation: Algers, A. & Wals, A. J. (2020). Transformative Sustainability-Oriented Open Education. In: Conrad, D. & Prinsloo, P. (Eds.). Open(ing) Education. (pp. 103-120). Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill | Sense. doi.org/10.1163/9789004422988_006
This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Recently I have been receiving messages that the short two-minute pitch Wageningen UR recorded a few years ago and which generated quite some interest, could no longer be found or reached when looking for it on the Internet via a browser or on YouTube. Strangely, I had no problem when clicking on the link I had stored in my laptop which is why initially I did not give it much attention until a few weeks ago I received three messages about this in one day. I could not figure out what the problem was but at last someone figured out that the two-minute pitch’s status was changed by the account manager of Wageningen UR’s YouTube channel (or someone with access to the account) from ‘public’ to ‘private’. Hopefully it works again for everybody… you can click on the image or the link above to check.
It appears that the clip is public again and can be used to help advocate the importance of re-orienting teaching and learning towards sustainability, which is needed today even more that 4 years ago when this was taped… Feel free to share or comment!
IF YOU FIND IT IS STILL NOT ACCESSIBLE – SEND ME A MESSAGE IN THE COMMENT BOX!
“A university is above all a place where everything can be questioned.”
My last two blog posts have been raising some critical questions about the viability and legitimacy of the scientific ‘enterprise’ in neo-liberal times. The Publish AND Perish blog post led to a lot of responses from colleagues within academic but also from the publishing ‘industry,’ including from the CEO of MDPI, Paul Vazquez. Coincidentally, a few weeks later, Ghent University in Belgium released a statement in which the university declared to go – what I would call – ‘off-the-grid’ of commodification, marketization and economic globalization by turning towards, autonomy, (local) relevance, responsibility towards people and, hopefully planet as well, by creating spaces for transdisciplinarity, boundary-crossing and collaborative action (perhaps I am filtering the statement using my own lens – apologies if I do so). Below some excerpts form the statement which can be found here as well: Ghent University’s New Pathway
Here is the message from Ghent’s Vice Chancellor Rik van de Walle
‘We are transforming our university into a place where talent once again feels valued and nurtured’
Our university should once again belong to the academics, rather than the bureaucracy, writes the rector of Ghent University, Rik Van de Walle.
Ghent University is deliberately choosing to step out of the rat race between individuals, departments and universities. We no longer wish to participate in the ranking of people.
We opt for a radically new model: those who perform well will be promoted, with a minimum of accountability and administrative effort and a maximum of freedom and responsibility. At the same time, we want to pay more attention to well-being at work: the evaluations of the supervisors will explicitly take into account the way in which they manage and coach their staff. The model must provide a response to the complaint of many young professors that quantitative parameters are predominant in the evaluation process. The well-known and overwhelming ‘publication pressure’ is the most prominent exponent of this. Ghent University is deliberately choosing to step out of the rat race between individuals, departments and universities. We no longer wish to participate in the ranking of people.
I am absolutely convinced that in a few years’ time we will see that this new approach has benefited the overall quality of our university and its people.
Rik Van de Walle, rector.
In September the Cornell Open On-line Course “Civic Ecology: Reclaiming Broken Places” will run again. Participants of this online course explore the people, places, and practices that restore nature and revitalize neighborhoods. Colleague and environmental educator Marianne Krasny and her team at Cornell University have been running this course successfully for a few years now and the topic is more timely then ever. The content connects with a some excellent publications which Krasny and her team have put together recently and published with Cornell University Press. Including – just out – Grassroots to Global: the broader impact of civic ecology More info and Urban Environmental Education Review (edited by Krasny and Russ). More info!
Course Dates: Sept 18 – Nov 5, 2018
Register: Registration Form
In times of systemic global dysfunction, post-truth, alternative facts, cultivated doubt and the erosion of meaning, I found it useful to turn back, once again, to George Orwell’s infamous “1984”. Well over 10 years ago, in 2004, I co-authored a paper on the danger of ‘doublespeak’ and ‘Newspeak’ in relation to the integration of sustainability in higher education. Back then this was an emerging trend, nowadays, it sometimes signifies a transition in education but more often little more than rethoric and green gloss. For me this is a good reason to re-introduce this paper here with Orwell’s cautionary tale but also with some ideas about how to move forward responsibly. Below an excerpt from the paper which you can find here in its totality: Jickling and Wals Orwell’s Cautionary Tale
Wals, A.E.J. & Jickling, B. (2002). “Sustainability” in Higher Education from doublethink and newspeak to critical thinking and meaningful learning. Higher Education Policy, vol. 15, 121-131. SustinHEOrwellsCautionaryTale
“Sustainability talk can, when used by advocates with radically different ideas about what should be sustained, mask central issues under the false pretense of a shared understanding, set of values and common vision of the future.
However, critical thought depends on transcendent elements in ordinary language, the words and ideas that reveal assumptions and worldviews, and the tools to mediate
differences between contesting value systems. And worse still, sustainability talk can
lead us in the direction of Orwell’s (1989) famously satirical notion of “doublethink”
whereby ordinary citizens can increasingly hold in their minds contradictory meanings
for the same term and accept them both (Orwell, 1989, p. 223).
The power of universal discourse in reducing meaning to a minimum is such that, as in “1984”, antagonistic concepts can be conjoined in a single phrase (“war is peace”, “peace is war”) or concept (i.e. “sustainable growth”) (Jickling, 2001). Big Brother’s “Newspeak” was designated not to extend but to diminish the range of thought, and this purpose was
indirectly assisted by cutting down the choice of words to a minimum (Orwell, 1989,
In Newspeak concepts capable of opposing, contradicting or transcending
the status quo were liquidated. As a result of this devaluation of language the people
in “1984” found themselves in a state of linguistic dysfunction which was exactly
what Big Brother wanted (Jickling, 2001).
Seen this way sustainability tends to blur the very distinctions required to evaluate an issue thoughtfully. When comparing the sustaining of ecological processes with the sustaining of consumerism we immediately see inconsistencies and incompatibilities of values, yet many people, conditioned to think that sustainability is inherently good, will promote both at the same time.”
Sustainability Science Key Issues Edited by Ariane König (Université du Luxembourg, Luxembourg) and Jerome Ravetz (Oxford University, UK) is a comprehensive textbook for undergraduates and postgraduates from any disciplinary background studying the theory and practice of sustainability science. Each chapter takes a critical and reflective stance on a key issue of sustainability from contributors with diverse disciplinary perspectives such as economics, physics, agronomy and ecology. This is the ideal book for students and researchers engaged in problem and project based learning in sustainability science.
I co-authored Chapter 2 with Michael A Peters titled: Flowers of resistance: Citizen science, ecological democracy and the transgressive education paradigm. Here’s a short intro to our joint effort. “When democracy can be hijacked, power corrupts and capitalism penetrates deeply into society, including into our schools, what prospects still exist for education for a more sustainable world? Democracy is painfully slow and open to manipulation: the question must be asked whether it is up to the task in the new global environment where action is through agreement of interest-based states. And yet in a post-truth world there are important issues that yoke science as empirical truth with democracy that we might christen ecological democracy which provides the warrant and justification for civil action, and demonstrates the new power of citizen science groups that can act autonomously in the interest of their local communities. In this paper we seek comfort, inspiration and support from emerging forms of ecological democracy, civic science and transgressive education. The latter invites conflict and disruption as mechanisms to break with stubborn, unsustainable routines, that encourage people to leave their comfort zone. The resulting discomfort can be generative when it invites people to explore other options, to build new alliances or to re-think what they always thought to be normal or true. Learning on the edge of one’s comfort zones amidst a plurality of ideas, can help us interrogate and rethink the way we frame – or are made to frame – our experiences, as well as our cultural narratives and associated encultured and embodied ontological pre-dispositions.”
Full reference: Wals, A.E.J. and Peters, M.A. (2017) Flowers of Resistance: Citizen science, ecological democracy and the transgressive education paradigm König, A. & Ravetz, J. (ed.). 2017. Sustainability Science: Key Issues. London: Earthscan/Routledge.
Here’s the link to the book: Sustainability Science: Key Issues
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