A Call to Action: Education for Sustainability

The author is a member of AACTE’s topical action group on Education for Sustainability. The views expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect the views of AACTE.

Does your teacher preparation program include course content or field experiences related to education for sustainability? If you are a typical teacher educator in the United States, you probably answered either “No” or “I don’t know.” Sustainability may be the defining issue of our time, yet very few teacher preparation programs in this country address education for sustainability.

Teacher educators: this is a call to action. If your program does not currently include course content or field experiences related to education for sustainability, make it your personal mission during this coming year to change this situation! You’ll have two opportunities at the upcoming AACTE Annual Meeting to get started. First, join the Education for Sustainability Topical Action Group (TAG) for a reception Sunday, March 2, from 5:30 to 7:00 p.m. in the Lincoln Room of Indianapolis Marriott Downtown. Then on Monday, March 3, attend this TAG’s annual meeting to become directly involved.

So what is education for sustainability? Today our society faces complex socio-ecological problems that are not sustainable—ranging from population growth and climate change to poverty, pervasive pollution, and increased vulnerability to disasters and conflict. Increasingly, educators are recognizing that responsible citizenship in the 21st century requires new knowledge and skills associated with sustainability literacy. Sustainability-literate citizens understand how human actions impact the world in which they live, and they are able to address the complexity and interconnectedness of these challenges. Yet we are just beginning to understand how to help people develop sustainability literacy. The discipline that focuses on this new and exciting endeavor is called education for sustainability.

Education for sustainability supports learners in the development of a sustainability worldview. Such a worldview embraces a vision of well-being for all, forever, and the commitment to work actively to make that vision a reality.

As we all know, the minute-to-minute and day-to-day professional practice of teaching is a complex job that requires expert and integrated knowledge of a broad knowledge domain. This knowledge must include information about human development and motivation, individual and cultural differences, instructional strategies, long-term planning, assessment, policy, leadership, professional ethics, and strategies for collaboration and teamwork. Education for sustainability involves a particularly complex and ill-structured domain of knowledge, skills, values, and dispositions. To effectively integrate sustainability into professional practice, teachers must understand the body of information associated with sustainability and also understand how to help students learn and use that information to develop a sustainability worldview.

Please join us at the AACTE Annual Meeting to learn how your program can integrate these critical lessons for educators!

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Victor Nolet

Professor, Western Washington University