There is an ongoing debate in contemporary research of education for sustainable development as to how good environmental education ought to be conducted and which goals should be accomplished (Fien, 1993, 2004; Hart, 2003; Huckle & Sterling, 1996; Jensen, Schnack, & Simovska, 2000; Kyburz-Graber, Hofer, & Wolfensberger, 2006; Sund & Wickman, submitted; Tillbury & Turner, 1997). The educational content is rarely commented on, however, except to note that the often dominating ecological subject content should be extended to include content from areas such as economics and the social sciences. According to Sterling (2004) and Bonnett (2003a) this is not enough: education itself also needs to be changed. A transformed education is an important aspect of sustainable development and not just an instrumental tool by which society might reach sustainability. From a democratic perspective, it is essential to make the current tendency of change from environmental education (EE) to education for sustainable development (ESD) much more visible. In other words, the aim should be to turn the globally discussed change of a school subject into a lifelong learning perspective (Breiting, 2000). Doyle (1992) thinks that the dichotomy between subject content and the conduct of teaching is created. Schnack (2000) emphasises that the actual creation of teaching is to be regarded as a teaching content: ”The central curricular question is no longer simply concerning the process of education, but must itself form part of the content” (p.123). If it is as Schnack (2000) and Doyle (1992) describe, then educational researchers need to grasp the content issues in a much more holistic way and study subject content, teaching methods, and perhaps also teachers’ aims, simultaneously. Munby and Roberts (1998) point to the importance of studying the educational context that arises through teachers’ different messages to students and is communicated through speech and other actions during the actual practice of teaching. The conclusion of this introductory discussion is that there is a need for an analytical tool with which to put together and offer an overview of educational context. The context in which subject content is taught is here called the socialisation content (Östman, 1995).
One important point of departure for this study is that the learning of subject content and socialisation content occurs simultaneously, and together they constitute the educational content. This study focuses on the socialisation content, which is studied through describing teachers’ different starting points for their messages to students. These might be different messages about the subject content, different messages in the teaching process, or whether the students are allowed to become more involved in the experience of education.
There are several arguments for studying the educational content of schools in a more overarching way. One important reason is to create conditions for more open and democratic discussions. In a democratic country the school’s educational content should be subject to a common critical investigation, where the nature of the content and its extent are as apparent as the motives. The extended subject content in ESD is often easy to present, while the socialisation content is hardly known or noticed. The subject matter and its pedagogy are especially important in ESD, given its value-related nature (Corney & Reid, 2007) (see Lundegård, this volume). The starting points for teachers’ value-related and often hidden choices of socialisation content are of common political interest. These therefore need to be made visible, rather than implied or insinuated as a kind of tacit background (Bonnett, 1999). This has its origins in teachers’ choices in a number of different fundamental educational aspects, which could be fruitful in terms of illustrating and understanding the relation between EE and ESD.
The aim of this study is to contribute to a better developed knowledge of content in environmental education and education for sustainable development. This study analyses the socialisation content in EE and ESD and its points of departure in central aspects of education. The socialisation content is the educational context in which a subject matter is communicated. By studying earlier research concerned with the content and conduct of environmental education, the purpose is thus to develop an analytical tool for researchers that could help to make teachers’ communicated socialisation content much more visible. In other words, by formulating specific questions about different aspects of education, these questions could be regarded as an analytical tool that not only facilitates the identification of the different messages that teachers communicate to students through speech and other actions but also makes them more visible.
In this way I would like to contribute to the development of opportunities for researchers and teachers to talk about content issues in ways other than the more usual subject-related approach. Moreover, the results allow all the educational stakeholders to challenge and critically examine the content and value-related starting points presented in EE and ESD.
Malmö: Liber , 2008. 56-74 p.
Selective traditions, educational aspects, democracy, socialization content, reflection tool, analytical tool, education for sustainable development