Identify general ESD-related strategies/methods
Instructional design usually tends to adopt a mixed or eclectic approach that integrates elements of various instructional design models with contrasting philosophical assumptions. Indeed, some learning problems may require prescriptive solutions, whereas others may need more flexibility to accommodate different learning styles and roles of education. Although it might be practical to use a mixed instructional design, it is of critical importance to consider the philosophical orientations inherent in your instructional design preferences since every decision concerning instructional design is driven consciously or unconsciously by a certain human interest. For a further elaboration on human interests, go to the resources and deepen your knowledge on Habermas (1971) knowledge constitutive interests and how they are related teaching and learning method, the curriculum, the pedagogy theory and the roles of higher education. The RUCAS strategic approach places a focus on a number of ESD learning processes most of them defined by Tilbury (2011):
- Learning to clarify one’s own values
- Learning to think critically
- Learning to reflect on own practices
- Learning to think systamically
- Learning to envision
- Learning to merge the head, the heart and the hand.
All these learning processes are inherent within an experiential, constructivist and transformative learning paradign abbreviated as ExConTra (Makrakis & Kostoulas-Makrakis, 2012). In trying to bring together the main principles of the constructivist and tranformative learning theories, assuming that experiential learning is crossing the two (e.g. Kolb & Kolb, 2005), Makrakis & Kostoulas-Makrakis, (2012a) have conceptualised a construct abbreviated as ExConTra, that corresponds to Experiential learning, Constructivist learning and Transformative learning depicted in Figure 2.1.
Figure 2.1: The ExConTra learning model
Beginning with experiencing, learners identify a realistic and authentic task associated with a sustainable development issue, and start collecting the information needed for their analyses, using various inquiry-based methods. Through reflecting, self and/or social, as well as through further reading and observing, learners organize and examine the collected data for the new experience from a variety of perspectives in order to find and make meaning. For learners to make meaning, either individually and/or shared, they need to reflect on their own experiences, leading them to develop more abstract understandings of their experiences (conceptualizing). Arriving at individual and shared meaning (constructing), learners need to get involved in a meaningful learning and shared inquiry enriched through continuous reflection, re-conceptualization and active experimentation. Constructed knowledge and meaning is meaningful when it opens up opportunities for action. Merging knowledge and meaning with action (acting) leads to a change agency and active citizenship. Acting as change agents, learners are empowered to transforming experience through critical reflection and active experimentation. When critical reflection is transformed into an action it becomes praxis that turns learners able to transform oneself and society (transforming). To facilitate transformative learning, educators must help learners become aware and critical of their own and others’ assumptions. Learners need practice in recognizing frames of reference and using their imaginations to redefine problems from a different perspective. In this sense, learning is a social process of effecting change in a frame of reference composed of rela-life habits of mind and a point of view (Mezirow, 2000; 2003). Frames of reference (cognitive, conative, and emotional) are the structures of assumptions through which we understand our experiences (ibid.). Transformative learning is a process whereby “we transform our taken-for-granted frames of reference to make them more inclusive, discriminating, open and reflective so that they may generate beliefs and opinions that will prove more true or justified to guide action” (Mezirow, 2000, p. 214). In other words, “Transformative learning involves experiencing a deep, structural shift in the basic premises of thought, feelings and actions. It is a shift of consciousness that dramatically and irreversibly alters our way of being in the world. Such a shift involves our understanding of ourselves and our self-locations; our relationships with other humans and with the natural world” (O’Sullivan, 2003, p. 327). Freire’s (1993) emphasis on praxis action and reflection is pedagogically illuminated by Kolb’s (1984) active learning cognition theory that gives due emphasis to experiential learning. This approach to the theory of curriculum, because it places meaning-making and thinking at its core and treats learners as subjects rather than objects, if coupled with the human agency perspective, can lead to curriculum constructions that facilitate learning to transform oneself and society.
The ExConTra learning paradigm is associated with educational approaches such as inquiry and discovery‐based learning, service learning, place-based learning and reflective/reflexive learning, all of which are associated with teaching methods and strategies that are suitable to education for sustainability. For example, place-based learning and instruction is primarily intended to motivate through a humanistic and scientific engagement with outdoor and field-based activities on local sustainability issues (Ault 2008; Gruenewald & Smith 2008; Smith & Sobel 2010). Similarly, service-learning is a teaching and learning method that connects meaningful, community service experiences with academic learning, personal growth and civic responsibility (Shumer & Duckenfield, 2004; Simons & Cleary, 2005). Both of these methods are values-driven approaches, designed to advance experiential, constructivist and transformative learning goals together with locally identified social, economic and environmental objectives. Inquiry-based learning is often described as a cycle or a spiral, which implies formulation of a question, its investigation, data analysis and creation of a solution. It also provides opportunities for students to: develop real-life skills; learn to cope with controversial problems as well as deal with changes and challenges (Alberta Learning, 2004). The greatest educational impediment to facilitating inquiry and asking critical questions may well be the linear way of viewing course content and pedagogy. Reflective inquiry is thus needed for engaging learners in dealing with complex sustainability issues and constructing meaning (Kostoulas-Makrakis, 2010). Discovery learning is an inquiry-based method that takes place in an experience-based problem solving situation, where the learner is confronted with an open-ended, ill-structured and authentic (real-world) problem (Hai-Jew, 2008; Balım, 2009; Alfieri et al. 2011). It is associated with cooperative learning, with instructors acting as facilitators rather than transmitters of information. Such a method is also connected to case-based learning, where students analyze case studies of historical or hypothetical situations that get involved in solving problems and/or making decisions (Carroll & Borge, 2007; Lee et al. 2009). All of these methods are based on the principle that students experience, construct and transform their own versions of reality rather than, simply absorbing versions presented by others. From a sustainability perspective, these methods help to transform unsustainable actions and reconnect people to the natural and cultural world of which they are an organic part.