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BNELIT - Datenbank zu Bildung für nachhaltige Entwicklung: wissenschaftliche Literatur und Materialien
Bildung für nachhaltige Entwicklung: wiss. Literatur und Materialien (BNELIT)
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Identifying opportunities for education for sustainability.
Current practices of community-based environmental groups.

Education for sustainability (EFS) is emerging as a key strategy for learning and action towards sustainability. Community-based environmental groups are potentially important providers of, and contexts for, educating adults for sustainability because they engage the community in activities such as public awareness raising, advocacy and lobbying, community education, and participatory learning (UNESCO, 2004, p. 25). These groups have been identified as key stakeholders of EFS in UNESCO's strategic plan for the United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development, from 2005-2014 (UNESCO, 2004). Despite this recognition, there are few models or precedents to guide groups or programs in developing and implementing EFS in their strategies or activities. Additionally, education commonly associated with community-based environmental groups has been rather narrowly conceived as public awareness raising and individual behaviour change, and disconnected from advocacy (Clover, 2002a; Whelan, pending). This thesis addressed this gap in understanding by investigating the dimensions of education and learning in two community-based environmental groups in South-East QueensIand. The aim of this research was to develop a framework to explain and understand the role of education and learning within and by community-based environmental groups. The research inquiry was motivated by an interpretive interest in uncovering the educative dimensions arising from group members' engagement in the activities of community-based environmental groups. This aim was addressed through an investigation of: (1) the community education initiatives of community-based environmental groups; and (2) the learning that occurs within these groups through participation in social action, Two community-based environmental groups that participated in this study were Smogbusters, an environmental advocacy group, which focused on air quality and transport issues in Brisbane; and the Pumicestone Region Catchment Coordination Association, (PRCCA) a community-based natural resource management group. Information was gathered through participant observation, interviews with group members and project staff, and the collection of relevant documents from both groups. A conceptual framework based on five convergent themes in the contemporary EFS literature was used to interpret and analyse the activities of these groups, These are: (1) participation; (2) critical thinking; (3) local relevance; (4) holistic, interdisciplinary and systemic approaches; and (5) values-driven approaches. The analysis of both groups' community education initiatives revealed the use of approaches that extend beyond pubhc awareness, didactic, and information-based approaches to strategies that engaged the community more actively than was possible with conventional approaches. This reflects a more sophisticated and considered approach that connects education with advocacy as an integral part of groups' strategy and practice. The two case studies illustrate the use of participatory learning and action that incorporates adult learning approaches to enhance participation and learning. These findings contribute to knowledge that can help bridge the gap between education and advocacy in the activities of community-based environmental groups (Clover, 2002a; Whelan, 2005). The findings strongly suggest that the two groups engaged a form of education and action that approaches the potential of EFS as envisaged in policy documents and vision statements. The groups provided opportunities for action learning through advocacy and lobbying for policy change, and through a range of activities associated with addressing issues of natural resource management. In Smogbusters, participation in advocacy and education contributed to building the capacity of individuals to engage in social action for sustainable transport and air quality. In the PRCCA, group members' participation in natural resource management related activities developed their skills, knowledge and capacity to advocate for sustainable natural resource management practices. These findings confirm that local participation in environmental action and decision making builds on the individual and collective experiences of participants. Participation in action empowered and enabled group members to engage in action and change. In particular, participants developed a strong sense of their capacity to enact change, and to engage in social action. The findings of this research suggest that community-based environmental groups are important places for adults to gain a stronger sense of personal and collective agency towards sustainability. Further, participation in these groups is an important mechanism for environmental change to be brought about through collective action (Apel & Camozzi, 1996). The research findings confirm that adult and popular education pedagogies can optimise learning in community-based environmental groups (Foley, 1999; Clover & Hall, 2000; Clover; 2002a; Follen & HaIl, 1998; Newman, 1995a). The framework may be able to assist project coordinators in developing and implementing community education strategies into their programs. Finally, the findings have implications for policy and program development in the Decade of Education for Sustainable Development.
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