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Are there inherent contradictions in attempting to implement education for sustainable development in schools?
Thesis (Ed.D.)--University of Bath, 2014.

Despite being ranked according to narrow measures of pupil achievement, many schools aim to become more sustainable. Faced with indicators suggesting the rapid degradation of social-ecological systems, these schools would prefer not to be part of the problem. However, environmental education/education for sustainable development (EE/ESD) in schools does not reflect the transformative rhetoric of academic discourse. Research into this ′rhetoric-reality gap′ has focused either on academic discourse or the psychology of individual teachers; there is a lack of critical research on teachers-in-context. This enquiry explores the notion of inherent contradictions in developing a sustainable school (however subjects define this). It applies an Activity Theory framework designed to identify contradictions within ′activity systems′ (e.g. schools). The primary method is a semi-structured interview conducted with fifteen teachers/headteachers in twelve schools (primary and secondary). The thesis offers a resource-efficient qualitative interview process that can bring Activity Theory to school-based research with minimum disruption and outlines a streamlined process of dilemma analysis. The data highlights contradictions in the way that schools conduct EE/ESD noting that these are often not recognised by educators themselves. Five different responses to contradictions are identified, including ′expansive learning′ that redefines the activity itself. In terms of an ESD1/ESD2 framework, this might be termed ′ESD 3′. Four approaches that schools may adopt in relation to sustainability are also outlined. An empowering vision of schools – and society – as autopoietic systems, i.e. as both products and producers, suggests that social reality is not as inevitable as it seems. By confronting contradictions, educators demonstrate the adaptive capacity required by young people if they are to engage in remodelling their world. Finally, the thesis proposes combining a two-sided conception of ESD with Activity Theory, potentially to the mutual benefit of both. Investigating this further is one of a number of options for further research.
Inhaltsverzeichnis :




Chapter One: The Research Problem and Purpose

1.1 Introduction
1.1.1 Education and the banality of ecocide
1.1.2 About this thesis
1.1.3 What this thesis is not about
1.1.4 A summary of the argument

1.2 Background to the research
1.2.1 My personal involvement with the topic
1.2.2 The sustainable schools project evaluation
1.2.3 Earlier assignments

1.3 The research context
1.3.2 Policy background
1.3.2 The research setting
1.3.3 Scope of this research

1.4 The research question

1.5 Theoretical background
1.5.1 Activity Theory
1.5.2 ESD 1 and ESD2

1.6 Other key concepts
1.6.1 Global crises – wicked problems
1.6.2 Sustainable development (SD)
1.6.3 Environmental education and ESD
1.6.4 Sustainable schools
1.6.5 Contradictions, problems and dilemmas
1.6.6 Emergence
1.6.7 Neoliberalism

1.7 Outline of Thesis

Chapter Two: Literature Review

2.1 Sustainable development: blind-spots and pitfalls
2.1.1 Blind spot 1: Anthropocentricism
2.1.2 Blind spot 2: The economic pillar
2.1.3 Blind spot 3: The culture deficit
2.1.4 Pitfall 1: The =future′ orientation
2.1.5 Pitfall 2: Language
2.1.6 Pitfall 3: Framing the concept
2.1.7 Pitfall 4: The demand for fresh thinking: autopoiesis and co-evolution

2.2 Education and sustainable development in England
2.2.1 Some (pre-)historic milestones
2.2.2 Mass education takes shape
2.2.3 EE/ESD in national education policy
2.2.4 Diversity or incoherence?
2.2.5 EE/ESD and =good education′
2.2.6 Gaps and mismatches

2.3 Cultural-historical Activity Theory
2.3.1 Early beginnings
2.3.2 Activity Theory and learning
2.3.3 Second and third generation activity theory
2.3.4 Activity Theory and EE/ESD

2.4 Looking ahead

Chapter Three: Methodology

3.1 Theoretical framework
3.1.1 Competing ontologies and epistemologies
3.1.2 An emerging framework
3.1.3 Methodology: Cultural-historical Activity Theory

3.2 Process and methods
3.2.1 Phase 1: Literature review and false starts
3.2.2 Phase 2: From change laboratory to qualitative interview
3.2.3 The principal research instrument: semi-structured question schedule
3.2.4 Additional data sources
3.2.5 Phase 3: Data analysis
3.2.6 Dilemma analysis
3.2.7 =Trustworthiness′

3.3 The Sample

3.4 Ethical considerations
3.4.1 An ethical framework
3.4.2 Rigour
3.4.3 Responsibility
3.4.4 Respect

3.5 Impact of the research on interviewees

Chapter Four: Analysis

4.1 Dilemmas within activity system elements
4.1.1 The activity system object
4.1.2 Primary object-based contradictions in the perspective document
4.1.3 Tools and mediating artefacts
4.1.4 Primary tool-based contradictions in the perspective document
4.1.5 Secondary contradictions between tools and object
4.1.6 Division of labour
4.1.7 Primary contradiction in division of labour
4.1.8 Rules and culture
4.1.9 Secondary contradiction between rules/culture and other activity
system elements

4.2 Tertiary contradictions

4.3 Quaternary contradictions

Chapter Five: Discussion

5.1 The extent to which contradictions are recognised and rationalised
5.1.1 Unawareness
5.1.2 Powerlessness
5.1.3 Accommodation 1: Denial
5.1.4 Accommodation 2: Satisficing
5.1.5 Expansive learning

5.2 Implications for sustainable schools
5.2.1 Some practical implications
5.2.2 Theoretical understandings of positions on sustainable schools
5.2.3 Reflections on policy

5.3 Reflections on methodology
5.3.1 Using the Activity Theory framework
5.3.2 Dilemma analysis
5.3.3 ESD 1, ESD 2 and Activity Theory: A contribution to theory

Chapter Six: Conclusion

6.1 Outputs of this thesis
6.1.1 Research findings
6.1.2 Research methods

6.2 Further research
6.2.1 Beyond the thesis
6.2.2 Investigating Position 4 =diffuse′ and Position 7=good′ education
6.2.3 Handing over the tools
6.2.4 Theoretical underpinnings of ESD 1, 2 and 3

6.3 Closing thoughts


Appendix I: Dilemmas identified by Berlak & Berlak

Appendix II: Summary information on the schools involved in this study

Appendix III: Notes on the interviewees and their interviews

Appendix IV: Statements on EE/ESD in Hansard 1968-2005

Appendix V: Rejection e-mails from proposed research settings
Vi: From the initial school setting
Vii: From the university setting

Appendix VI: Question schedule

Appendix VII: Consent form

Appendix VIII: Website analysis

Appendix IX: Sample schools′ Ofsted data

Appendix X: Codes

Appendix XI: Perspective document

Appendix XII: Perspective document feedback results

Appendix XIII: Contradictions summary table
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