Mainstreaming sustainability into pre-service teacher education in Australia

Ferreira, Jo-Anne and Ryan, Lisa ORCID: and Davis, Julie and Cavanagh, Marian and Thomas, Janelle (2009) Mainstreaming sustainability into pre-service teacher education in Australia. Project Report. Macquarie University , North Ryde, Australia. [Report]


There is a growing interest in and support for education for sustainability in Australian schools. Australian Government schemes such as the Australian Sustainable Schools Initiative (AuSSI), along with strategies such as Educating for a Sustainable Future: A National Environmental Education Statement for Australian Schools(NEES(Australian Government and Curriculum Corporation (2005) and Living Sustainably: The Australian Government’s National Action Plan for Education for Sustainability (Australian Government 2009), recognise the need and offer support for education for sustainability in Australian schools. The number of schools that have engaged with AuSSI indicates that this interest also exists within Australian schools. Despite this, recent research indicates that pre-service teacher education institutions and programs are not doing all they can to prepare teachers for teaching education for sustainability or for working within sustainable schools. The education of school teachers plays a vital role in achieving changes in teaching and learning in schools. Indeed, the professional development of teachers in education for sustainability has been identified as ‘the priority of priorities’. Much has been written about the need to ‘reorient teacher education towards sustainability’. Teacher education is seen as a key strategy that is yet to be effectively utilised to embed education for sustainability in schools. Mainstreaming sustainability in Australian schools will not be achieved without the preparation of teachers for this task. The Mainstreaming Sustainability model piloted in this study seeks to engage a range of stakeholder organisations and key agents of change within a system to all work simultaneously to bring about a change, such as the mainstreaming of sustainability. The model is premised on the understanding that sustainability will be mainstreamed within teacher education if there is engagement with key agents of change across the wider teacher education system and if the key agents of change are ‘deeply’ involved in making the change. The model thus seeks to marry broad engagement across a system with the active participation of stakeholders within that system. Such a systemic approach is a way of bringing together diverse viewpoints to make sense of an issue and harness that shared interpretation to define boundaries, roles and relationships leading to a better defined problem that can be acted upon more effectively. Like action research, the systemic approach is also concerned with modelling change and seeking plausible solutions through collaboration between stakeholders. This is important in ensuring that outcomes are useful to the researchers/stakeholders and the system being researched as it creates partnerships and commitments to the outcomes by stakeholder participants. The study reported on here examines whether the ‘Mainstreaming Sustainability’ model might be effective as a means to mainstream sustainability in pre-service teacher education. This model, developed in an earlier study, was piloted in the Queensland teacher education system in order to examine its effectiveness in creating organisational and systemic change. The pilot project in Queensland achieved a number of outcomes. The project: • provided useful insights into the effectiveness of the Mainstreaming Sustainability model in bringing about change while also building research capacity within the system • developed capacities within the teacher education community: o developing competencies in education for sustainability o establishing more effective interactions between decision-makers and other stakeholders o establishing a community of inquiry • changed teaching and learning approaches used in participating teacher education institutions through: o curriculum and resource development o the adoption of education for sustainability teaching and learning processes o the development of institutional policies • improved networks within the teacher education system through: o identifying key agents of change within the system o developing new, and building on existing, partnerships between schools, teacher education institutions and government agencies • engaged relevant stakeholders such as government agencies and non-government organisations to understand and support the change Our findings indicate that the Mainstreaming Sustainability model is able to facilitate organisational and systemic change – over time – if: • the individuals involved have the conceptual and personal capacities needed to facilitate change, that is, to be a key agent of change • stakeholders are engaged as participants in the process of change, not simply as ‘interested parties’ • there is a good understanding of systemic change and the opportunities for leveraging change within systems. In particular, in seeking to mainstream sustainability in pre-service teacher education in Queensland it has become clear that one needs to build capacity for change within participants such as knowledge of education for sustainability, conceptual skills in systemic thinking, action research and organisational change, and leadership skills. It is also of vital importance that key agents of change – those individuals who are ‘hubs’ within a system and can leverage for change across a wide range of the system – are identified and engaged with as early as possible. Key agents of change can only be correctly identified, however, if the project leaders and known participants have clearly identified the boundary to their system as this enables the system, sub-system and environment of the system to be understood. Through mapping the system a range of key organisations and stakeholders will be identified, including government and nongovernment organisations, teacher education students, teacher education academics, and so on. On this basis, key agents of change within the system and sub-system can be identified and invited to assist in working for change. A final insight is that it is important to have time – and if necessary the funding to ‘buy time’ – in seeking to bring about system-wide change. Seeking to bring about system-wide change is an ambitious project, one that requires a great deal of effort and time. These insights provide some considerations for those seeking to utilise the Mainstreaming Sustainability model to bring about change within and across a pre-service teacher education system.

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Item Type: Report (Project Report)
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: Files associated with this item cannot be displayed due to copyright restrictions.
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: No Faculty
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: No Faculty
Date Deposited: 23 May 2022 00:03
Last Modified: 23 May 2022 00:03
Uncontrolled Keywords: Australia; teacher education; sustainability; Australian Sustainable Schools Initiative (AuSSI)
Fields of Research (2020): 39 EDUCATION > 3901 Curriculum and pedagogy > 390105 Environmental education curriculum and pedagogy
39 EDUCATION > 3903 Education systems > 390307 Teacher education and professional development of educators
Socio-Economic Objectives (2020): 16 EDUCATION AND TRAINING > 1603 Teaching and curriculum > 160303 Teacher and instructor development
Identification Number or DOI: doi:10.13140/2.1.1092.5767

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