In the first round of public comment, we sought your input on the critical categories to be covered in this publication. Now, in our second round of public comment, we’d like your feedback on the key recommendations in each of the agreed-upon categories. Our contributing authors have offered their thoughts on the most important steps if we are to graduate students educated for sustainability in the next 30 years. We look forward to your feedback – please use the comment function below or this link.
Preservice Teacher Preparation
Victor Nolet, PhD, Western Washington University
1. Focus on improving outcomes for all students.
- Education for sustainability (EfS) must contribute to the ongoing mission of ensuring that all children have access to well-prepared teachers, adequate school facilities and effective curriculum resources, including technology.
2. Education for sustainability should be embedded into the process of learning to be a teacher.
- Sustainability topics and big ideas must be an integral part of the curriculum for preservice teacher education. Preservice teachers should have opportunities to apply sustainability related pedagogical content knowledge, work with sustainability related curriculum materials, and complete field experiences in settings where effective EfS practices are being implemented.
3. Existing structures, processes, and local resources should be employed to support preservice teacher preparation.
- Existing state licensure and national accreditation standards must include sustainability related competencies and expectations for all teachers.
- Teacher education programs should explore partnerships with schools that are implementing EfS to develop high quality field experiences for preservice teachers. Teacher preparation programs also should develop partnerships with non-formal educators, government agencies, and non-profit organizations to build synergies and build on existing successful programs. Preservice teacher candidates should have opportunities to complete community and field based experiences in school and non-school settings where sustainability practices are occurring.
Craig Shealy, PhD, James Madison University
To ensure the relevance and impact of Education for Sustainability over the short- and long-term, it is essential that research programs and activities of depth and breadth are integral to these overarching efforts.
1. Prioritize the following research programs: there is broad consensus that a triptych of competencies (i.e., knowledge, skills, and dispositions) is relevant to all phases of education and certification – both locally and globally – from teacher education to student learning. Such complexities and synergies – between education, teaching, learning, and the values and practices of EfS – raise a host of research questions, including but not limited to the following:
- Ask research questions, develop designs, and implement methods that are able to address the complexity of these processes (e.g., How do dispositions in teachers interact with dispositions in students to impact the type and degree of learning that actually occurs? How do individual differences among students – attributional style, emotional regulation, life history, etc. – influence learning processes and outcomes?).
- Examine how teacher education standards (e.g., InTASC) might best be reconciled with the standards by which teacher education and effectiveness are evaluated, in the U.S. and internationally.
- Examine why human beings are included toward or against EfS values and practices in the first place in order to maximize our approach to education, outreach, research, policy, and practice.
- Study the efficacy of different venues for and approaches to EfS teaching (e.g., environmental education, place-based learning, service learning, study abroad) in order to understand how best to learning processes and outcomes under different circumstances, with different audiences.
- Develop and evaluate methods for helping teachers develop their full potential for educating for sustainability over the short- and long-term.
2. Prioritize the following research activities
- Illustrate the relationship among various aspects of EfS research (e.g., assessment, data, education, theory, practice), promote research collaboration among various EfS stakeholders (e.g., administrators, parents, policymakers, the public, students, scholars, teachers), and translate research findings into applied form (e.g., in order to impact national / international policy and practice)
- Enhance the sophistication of teaching and communicating about research methodology, design, and analysis so that teachers, teacher-trainers, administrators, policy makers, and the public at large become better able to participate in the development and usage of EfS scholarship over the short- and long-term.
- Specify theoretical models and assessment methods that are demonstrably well suited to the investigation, illumination, and promotion of EfS across multiple settings and contexts (e.g., what theoretically and empirically grounded studies and assessment methods are most likely to demonstrate that the values and practices of EfS have positive impact?).
- Create a process through which these and other research, assessment, and applied questions regarding EfS teaching and learning may be explicated and pursued in the years to come
If we are to teach teachers how to convey the principles and practices of EfS, both locally and globally, we must appreciate that these matters are heavily value-laden, and therefore must be approached with care and sophistication at all levels.
Lisa Kensler, EdD, Auburn University
1. Raise awareness about Education for Sustainability among school and district administrators
- Students, teachers, staff, and community leaders who are sustainability champions should reach out to school administrators with offers of information and support for green initiatives and EfS. Remain persistent and patient as you develop a positive relationship with the administrators.
- School board members and administrators who recognize that they want and need to learn more about the many opportunities for greening their schools and districts should seek out the sustainability champions in their schools and communities. Invite this group together to form a sustainability leadership team and empower them to educate you about EfS.
- Licensure program providers for school administrators need to begin integrating core content related to EfS and green school practices into their preparation programs so that the next generation of school administrators brings a deep awareness and understanding of the many opportunities for practicing whole school sustainability.
- Sustainability professionals/champions need to take the EfS message via conference presentations and publications to the professional organizations associated with school administration (examples: National School Board Association, The School Superintendents Association, ASCD, National Association of Secondary School Principals, National Association of Elementary School Principals, etc.) Current school administrators who are members of these organizations and are also sustainability champions need to promote EfS through sharing their success stories and developing productive professional networks focused on sustainability education.
2. Continue leading for EfS
- School administrators should create, engage, and empower representative of the students, teachers, staff, and community in district and school level leadership teams for EfS. This leadership team should facilitate the development of a shared vision for whole school sustainability and related goals.
- School district superintendents should consider the benefits of hiring a sustainability professional to lead, manage, and/or coordinate whole school sustainability education initiatives from a high level district position.
- School boards should review and revise school district policy for alignment with a vision and goals for EfS and green school practices.
Allen Cooper, National Wildlife Federation and Jim Elder, Campaign for Environmental Literacy
Comprehensive green schools policy delivers triple benefits of student learning, student and staff health, and reduced operations cost and environmental impact. It also aligns the interests of the environmental, education, labor, faith, youth, energy, and conservation communities in a unique manner around schools. The following outlines the most important policy elements to deliver on this triplet. Policy priorities, opportunities, and regulatory environments differ significantly from state to state, so an effective state policy strategy will need to be customized for each state.
1. Graduate students education for sustainability
- Environmental literacy graduation requirement
- Environmental and sustainability literacy curriculum standards
- Model environmental education curriculum
- Civic and community engagement requirement
- Teacher training (inservice and preservice)
2. Achieve a net-positive health impact on students and staff
- Healthy indoor air quality standards
- Asthma management program
- Integrated pest management policies
- Green purchasing and cleaning policies
- Zero toxics (lead, PCBs, etc) policy in schools
- Healthy nutrition standards for school meals, snacks, and vending machines
- Farm-to-school food program with incentives to serve locally grown and unprocessed food
- Schoolyard gardens and habitats programs and outdoor learning opportunities
- Adequate minimum levels of health and physical education
- Adequate minimum levels of physical activity for students
- Daily recess for elementary students
3. Achieve a net-zero environmental impact
- Requirements for green new school construction
- Standards, incentives and support to green existing schools
- Energy performance benchmarks (and /or carbon emission benchmarks) for existing schools
- Staff training to maximize building performance
- Financing for green construction and renovation through green criteria for bond authorizations
- Financing for green construction and renovation through a green grant and revolving loan programs
- Water conservation standards
- Zero-waste goals (zero hazardous waste, recycling, composting, waste-free lunches, etc. policies)
- Green transportation policies (safe routes to school, alternative fuel school buses, etc)
4. State funding
- Revolving Loan Fund (Buildings)
- Environmental fees and fines
- License Plate fees
Jenny Wiedower, the Center for Green Schools, USGBC
1. Develop shared terminology that communicates the essence of EfS
2. Develop a clear, understandable message at the core of which is education, but appeals to additional values (health, economic, human rights, etc.)
3. Define and recruit collaborators and “sponsors” whose networks, reputation, PR engine, influence will work to build awareness
4. Define and prioritize target audiences in tandem with calls to action – design a campaign that gets attention from each
5. Define indicators and track metrics to monitor efficacy of campaigns and inform subsequent efforts
Paul Bocko, Antioch University New England
1. Focus on instructional practice around solving complex problems with no obvious answer (Schmoker, 2011).
2. Identify effective teaching standards within existing educator evaluation systems (teacher performance rubrics) consistent with the 3 E’s (MA example) by 2018.
3. All states should adopt sustainability curriculum standards and integrate sustainability in teacher performance rubrics by 2040.
4. Integrate EfS as core content in teacher certification and school leader certification programs by 2040.
Cynthia Thomashow, Island Wood
What might educational change look like if funders, nonprofits, government officials, civic leaders and business executives embraced a collective vision that impacted schools for sustainability? Essentially, we are interested in building collective impact (rather than isolated intervention) among communities, students and schools toward improved student performance, healthy and safe learning environments and sustainability in the face of impending environmental issues.
In order to motivate people to tackle problems in new, innovative and collaborative ways, we should bring unlikely partners together to realize shared goals by gathering knowledge, considering creative means to address problems together and to build strength through diversity. We should:
- break down silos and working across sectors
- abandon isolated approaches to solving big complex educational problems
- aligning resources for the common good
- communicate clearly and consistently
- increase engagement with ideas and methods we know will achieve large-scale change
Jennifer Cirillo, Shelburne Farms
Transformative professional development is necessary in order to educate for a sustainable future. Professional development should:
- Take a whole systems approach, engaging diverse stakeholders and linking multiple school and educational initiatives under the umbrella of sustainability
- Build conceptual understanding of sustainability and associated “Big Ideas”
- Model pedagogical approaches of EFS such as place-, project-, and problem-based learning, and service-learning
- Build leadership, agency, and personal wellness to transform education at all levels
- Model reflective practice that supports collaborative learning and develops communities of learning, inquiry and practice
Jennifer Seydel, Green Schools National Network
An assessment model for Education for Sustainability requires us to think beyond the current models of high stakes tests and consider how to assess problem solving, systems thinking, deep conceptual understanding and how attitudes and values related to diversity in the human and earth community, conservation, and preservation help us to make decisions and set priorities that will impact our future. We need to rethink the notion that some students will succeed in school, while others will fail, and create an assessment system that is generative, one that will empower school leaders, teachers, and students to plan and prepare for a sustainable future, not for the test.
An assessment model for EfS should consist of three mainstays:
1. Mastery of knowledge and skills:
This dimension of achievement asks students to demonstrate understanding, proficiency and application of a clearly defined body of knowledge and skills related to sustainability that are a synthesized from existing standards: Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts, Mathematics, and Literacy for History, Science and Technical Subjects; the Next Generation Science Standards, and emerging national social science standards. By the time students graduate from high school they are able to solve problems, think critically, apply their learning to authentic sustainability issues and topics, and are able to communicate clearly about the interactions of social, political, economic, and biogeochemical systems.
2. Global and ecological citizenship skills
This dimension of student achievement relates to non-cognitive skills that support global citizenship. Working appropriately and productively with others; leveraging the collective knowledge of groups when appropriate; bridging cultural differences and using differing perspectives to increase innovation and the quality of work. Learning from and working collaboratively with individuals representing diverse cultures, religions and lifestyles in a spirit of mutual respect and open dialogue in personal, work and community contexts; understanding other nations and cultures, including the use of non-English languages. Treating and interacting with the natural world as an integral part of the community as expressed through conservation and stewardship of natural resources and other organisms.
3. Task management skills
This dimension of student achievement is assessed when students transfer their knowledge and skills to authentic projects that address issues and concerns of the 21st century. Students put knowledge and skills to use in order to solve complex problems and create a body of work that shows innovation and creative application. Students learn to prioritize, plan, and organize themselves and others efficiently achieve the goals of a specific project or problem. Students learn to handle multiple goals, tasks, and inputs, while understanding and adhering to constraints of time, resources, and systems.
The ABCDs of EfS for Integrated Content and Curriculum
(Align standards, Build alliances, Implement content, Digital delivery)
Kimberly Corrigan, Facing The Future
1. ALIGN STANDARDS AND ENGAGE DISCIPLINARY ASSOCIATIONS
Align EfS contexts, content, and lessons with the national standards for all core academic discipline associations, includingthe Common Core Standards for Math and Language Arts, the 3C Social Studies Standards, and the Next Generation Science Standards. Assess and revise the National Education for Sustainability K-12 Student Learning Standards (Version 3; September 2009) to better serve state, district, and school needs, and to highlight EfS’s comprehensive inclusion of 21st CenturySkills and Themes.
2. BUILD CURRICULAR ALLIANCES
Build strategic alliances, integrate resources and work cooperatively with existing K-12 national programs, networks and organizations that focus on EfS-related goals such as theU.S. Department of Education’s Green Ribbon Schools Program, the No Child Left Inside Coalition, the National Academy of Sciences’ Sustainability Improves Student Learning initiative. Cultivate and support new partners focused on EfS-related outcomes for the K-12 system in social and economic justice, democracy, nonviolence, and peace.
3. CREATE OPPORTUNITIES FOR CONTENT IMPLEMENTATION
Find and implement high-quality EfS curriculum and frameworks (Facing the Future, Pacific Education Institute, The Cloud Institute) to utilize in classes as its own topic, as a context for teaching core subjects, and as a unifying theme for projects, and for entire schools and districts (Church & Skelton, 2013). Make available EfS content to provide robust material for culminating graduation projects, for student extracurricular activities, and for connecting the built environment, food services, and facilities operations to student learning outcomes and action projects. Examine exemplar statewide EfS and EfS-related plans to support EfS planning and implementation (e.g: Washington State Environmental and Sustainability Literacy Plan, 2011; Wisconsin’s Environmental Literacy and Sustainability in PK-12 Schools Plan, 2011).
4. DEVELOP MATERIALS FOR DIGITAL DELIVERY
Research and utilize new technologies that are revolutionizing the delivery of education (Massive Open Online Courses, Khan Academy-style video and training tutorials, and adaptive programs that individualize and assess student learning). Develop digital EfS content for multiple platforms that positively impact student outcomes--deepen the online experience with components that require collaboration, communication, and higher order critical thinking and systems thinking skills. Collaborate with technology and content experts to effectively support teachers and students in utilizing, adapting, and creating innovative EfS experiences.
Todd Cohen, The SEED Center, American Association of Community Colleges
1. Create better labor market intelligence
The value of EfS increases when that education is guiding students to an eventual viable career. A key concern is that educators do not have the localized labor market intelligence that sheds light on which green careers are growing and emerging locally—thus they cannot build responsive curriculum that would prepare the necessary workforce needed to keep these industries expanding. We should:
- strengthen connections between schools and individual “green” companies
- more robustly connect schools/educators to their local or state economic development stakeholders (those responsible for setting policies that would grow the clean technology market) to get schools thinking well ahead of time what occupational/skill needs might be arising across an entire green industry—and then translate these opportunities into curricular changes so that students are prepared for real job opportunities.
2. Change the discussion from green occupations to green skills
All jobs will and can become greener so all students need to understand the challenges and apply it to their own field. For educators, this means EfS should get embedded into general education and should be creatively integrated across all disciplines. For schools, this requires educators to think critically about how their existing curriculum can be refined to be ‘greened’ vs. thinking they need to create new sustainability-related offerings. Secondary schools should adopt sustainability standards developed by Career/Tech Education leaders.
3. Create meaningful certifications within post-secondary
In order to understand which certifications in “green” areas are truly valued by employers, we must ensure that certifications—whether they are ‘sustainability certifications’ or more technical ‘energy auditor’ certifications - align to real industry need, include on-ramps, are portable, etc.
4. Develop clear pathways
If we want more students to gravitate toward careers in the sustainability area—and make a good career out of it—schools in a geographic region need to collaborate to create a pathway from K-12 to post-secondary to a career (through articulation) in fields related to sustainability. The pathway must also be clear to students of all ages so that they understand the education and training needed to reach an end career goal.
5. Focus on public and consumer behavior change
In addition to market incentives and supportive financing structures the biggest thing we can do to spur green job growth is to convince more homeowners, business owners, consumers, investors, and policymakers that sustainable practices and goods are important and make financial sense. We should:
- help educators help their students articulate their values coherently and give them the tools to persuade others
- support schools themselves in being the vehicles (e.g. through events and workshops) to educate the public on how they can engage in more sustainable practices
- support student-led community enhancement (e.g., energy and waste audits for libraries, city offices, small businesses), which provides meaningful experiential learning opportunities for students, keeps them engaged in sustainability problem-solving, AND helps under-staffed/-resourced entities improve efficiencies.