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Politics and the political in environmental and sustainability education: A construction of an analytical model
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Educational Sciences, Department of Education. (Studies of meaning-making in Educational Discourses (SMED))
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Educational Sciences, Department of Education. (Studies of meaning-making in Educational Discourses (SMED))
(English)In: Environmental Education Research, ISSN 1350-4622, E-ISSN 1469-5871Article in journal (Refereed) Submitted
Abstract [en]

Researchers in environmental sustainability education (ESE) play a central role in the political dimension that pluralism gives rise to. This includes the increasing theoretical tendency to view conflicts as ontological in a pluralistic democracy.  Curiously, though the political dimension of educational processes has been theorized in ESE, empirical studies are still unusual. The aim of this article is, through theoretical, methodological and empirical work, to construct an analytical model to generate empirical knowledge about politics and the political – where students’ deal with conflicts, decision, inclusion and exclusion - in teaching and learning activities.  This article recounts a combined empirical and philosophical study of the political dimension in ESE practice.  The empirical material consists of a video recorded lesson and attempts to understand why some of the students did not raise their voices to express their disagreements, even though they clearly express disagreements in a written survey after the same lesson. This contradictory pictures has rarely been discussed in ESE research literature. It is crucial to reflect on whether face-to-face relations tamp down conflicts and if the students consequently do not become educated in or involved in the political dimension of environmental and sustainable issues. This concern is addressed using Chantal Mouffe’s theory of the political and a pragmatist theory of emotions and meaning-making, particularly by John Dewey. Introducing a didactical analytical model of political moments allows us to identify when a moment occurs as political. This model also allows us to study the anatomy of a political moment: first, we never start from scratch, meaning that we experience things that we discover as valuable and to which we feel committed; second, the moment is one that demands a judgment between incompatible alternatives; and third, the moment require a decision between conflicting ends of a kind that will determine or re-determine some amount of previously assumed solidarity and communality, i. e. our social relations. These moments occur when students suddenly experience undecidability in a situation that requires a decision, which inevitably leads to an act of inclusion and exclusion. In other words, the political becomes embodied in a practice of politics in a given context. This may include not only a new appreciation for commitments as part of the political dimension but also invite a way of learning from experiencing political moment in terms of undecidability and antagonism. With these ideas in mind, we suggest that the political dimension can become the source of new understandings, particularly that politics inevitably is an act of inclusion and exclusion.

 

 

 

Keyword [en]
Environmental and sustainability education, political, Mouffe
National Category
Educational Sciences
Research subject
Curriculum Studies
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-293440OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-293440DiVA: diva2:927734
Available from: 2016-05-13 Created: 2016-05-13 Last updated: 2016-06-30
In thesis
1. Politisk tendens, politiskt ögonblick och kreativitet: Studier av miljö- och hållbarhetsundervisning
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Politisk tendens, politiskt ögonblick och kreativitet: Studier av miljö- och hållbarhetsundervisning
2016 (Swedish)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This thesis takes its point of departure in the political dimension in Environmental and Sustainability Education (ESE). In the research field different views exist – containing both similarities and differences – regarding what is meant by ‘the political’ in the context of educational practice. What do different authors, policymakers, practitioners etc. mean when they refer to ´the political´ within the context of ESE? The ambiguity that characterises the discussions on the political dimension of (environmental and sustainability) education can impede and blur both research and professional reflection. This can create confusion, particularly amongst teachers, and a clarification of ‘the political’ through an investigation of how it appears in educational practice is vital.

The thesis contributes with an educational typology and an analytical model of political moments to identify how the political dimension may emerge in different ways in educational practices. As part of these models the thesis also contributes with two theoretical-analytical concepts – educative moment and creativity – to be used to further discuss how education can use the political to explore new values and new behaviours regarding environmental and sustainable concerns.

The theoretical frames of the thesis are poststructural and pragmatic theories, foremost by Chantal Mouffe and John Dewey. The thesis is especially built on a pragmatist and anti-essentialist approach, which argues that we socially construct the meaning of right and wrong, and of what works better in our lives in problematic situations. The thesis has four purposes and the results are presented in four studies. The first purpose examines how Environmental Sustainability Education (ESE) research literature conceptualize the political dimension, and how these findings impact the political dimension as educational content in teaching and learning activities in ESE practice. The second purpose examines different situations in which the political can be handled and experienced in environmental and sustainability education practice. This purpose is dealt with in the second study and the result is a didactical typology called the political tendency. The third purpose is to examine the political and politics in teaching and learning activities, both cognitive and emotional, about antagonism, conflicts, inclusion and exclusion. This purpose is dealt with in the third study and the results are illustrated by empirical examples. The fourth purpose examines the idea of creativity in relation to the political dimension, i. e. where new values can emerge or evolve. These purpose is dealt with in study 2, 3 and 4 and the results are presented as two theoretical-analytical concepts: educative moments and creativity concerning the political dimension in ESE.

My ambition is that this thesis will contribute to the discussion about how teaching and learning activities that include a political dimension in ESE can use the presented models to identify educational content of the political dimension, and to further understand how individuals create their relation to their social and physical surroundings. Another ambition is to contribute to philosophical and methodological discussions about the relation between the political dimension, meaning making and embodiment within environmental and sustainability education.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, 2016. 86 p.
Series
Digital Comprehensive Summaries of Uppsala Dissertations from the Faculty of Educational Sciences, 11
Keyword
environmental and sustainability education, political, politics, experience, meaning making, poststructural theory, pragmatism
National Category
Educational Sciences
Research subject
Curriculum Studies
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-293442 (URN)978-91-554-9606-7 (ISBN)
Public defence
2016-09-09, Eva Netzelius, Blåsenhus, von Kraemers Allé 1, Uppsala, 13:15 (Swedish)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2016-06-30 Created: 2016-05-13 Last updated: 2016-07-19Bibliographically approved

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