Sustainable Development and Learning: Framing the Issues

By Neil Chalmers; William Scott et al. | Go to book overview

11

Building capacity, developing agency

Evolving a theory of change

Introduction
As we noted at the outset of this book, much has been written about appropriate content, processes and pedagogies for learning in relation to sustainable development. As particular approaches are invented and named, they become attached to particular institutions, which then acquire an interest in their success which goes beyond the purely intellectual. Titles and acronyms are deployed, as are lists of points and principles which, it is argued, capture the wider reality of what happens. As we also noted from the very beginning of this book, even the question of arriving at definitions of terms cuts both ways. On the one hand, continuing debate about definitions seems consistent with the case we have made for the potential contribution of multiple rationalities in the face of uncertainty. An early and still telling discussion of the dangers inherent in definitional standardisation is Robottom's (1987b). On the other hand, if one is trying to persuade people who are busy doing something else of the significance of a concept like sustainable development, then reducing that concept to a portable form has its advantages. Further, it might be argued that a field incapable of establishing agreed definitions of its most basic terminology is unlikely to make any other sort of progress. At its heart, this is a question about the theory of change which informs different approaches to learning and sustainable development. Not all the approaches to sustainable development and/or learning we have discussed have an explicit theory but since sustainable development clearly implies some sort of change from the status quo, all must have at least an implicit theory of how it might happen. In this chapter we examine a number of possible ways of thinking about learning, sustainable development and change. Implicit in our discussion are the questions of:
• How the capacity of society for sustainable development might be enhanced, and
• How individual agency might effectively be energised and channelled.

As we noted in Chapter 10, it is not only those with predominantly environmental concerns who have seen learning as a route to the achievement of their social goals. Of particular interest here are those writers with a broader, but by no means unconnected, focus on education and social policy as a whole. Some of these have argued that meaningful social progress of any kind depends on developing new ways

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Sustainable Development and Learning: Framing the Issues
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Illustrations vii
  • Foreword ix
  • Acknowledgements xi
  • Authors' Introduction xiii
  • 1 - Framing the Issues 1
  • 2 - The Policy Context 12
  • 3 - Language and Meaning 23
  • 4 - Learning and Sustainable Development 31
  • 5 - Humans and Nature 44
  • 6 - Theory and Practice 56
  • 7 - Management of Learning 66
  • 8 - Curriculum and Pedagogy 78
  • 9 - Measuring Learning 87
  • 10 - Monitoring and Evaluation 97
  • 11 - Building Capacity, Developing Agency 110
  • 12 - Economic Behaviour 120
  • 13 - Globalisation and Fragmentation 133
  • 14 - What Happens Next? 143
  • References 148
  • Index 161
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