1.1. The Project
1.2. Key Concepts
“…supports and motivates each student to nurture his or her passions, make connections between different learning experiences and opportunities, and design their own learning projects and processes in collaboration with others” (p. 4).
1.2.2. Projects as Authentic Context for Education for Sustainable Development
1.2.3. Action Competence
1.2.4. Psychological Impacts and the PERMA Model
1.2.5. Educator Competences for ESD
2. Materials and Methods
2.1. Cultural-Historical Activity Theory
2.2. Data Gathering
- Second transnational meeting;
- Third transnational meeting;
- Focus group discussions at third transnational meeting;
- Fourth transnational meeting;
- Focus group discussions at fourth transnational meeting;
- Final “mobility” workshop.
2.3. Research Sample
- Greece—Private, fee-paying;
- Romania—Gymnasium, selective academic;
- England—Academy (state school), non-selective, in area of high social deprivation;
- Spain—State school, non-selective, in area with some deprivation;
- Slovenia—Technical school, sixth form students selected according to ability/aptitude.
2.4. Data Analysis
- Various project purposes;
- Students’ learning;
- Teachers’ roles;
- Cultural shifts;
- Assessment/evaluation of students;
- Community engagement;
- How to run projects.
3.1. Theme 1: Project Purposes
3.1.1. Objectives External to the School (1a)
- Helping the community;
- Demonstrating to others how to move away from “old school” practices.
3.1.2. Pedagogic Innovation (1b)
- Innovation in teaching and learning methods;
- To work with unknown answers;
“I feel that the students are given ‘ready thinks’ and not something that they will do themselves, find it themselves, work it out by themselves.”(TM4c)
3.1.3. Student Development (1c)
- To get students to work with society;
- Giving young people opportunity to change something;
- Building students’ skills, e.g., team working; creative thinking;
- Broadening the horizon of students.
3.2. Theme 2: Students’ Learning
3.2.1. Sub-Theme 2a: Working Together
- Team work/collaboration—an essential element of all projects;
- Listening to each other—e.g., initially “noisy” students learned to step back and hear other ideas;
- Communication—this relates to listening but also to making one’s points more understandable;
- Giving constructive criticism—learning not to offend or upset team mates; diplomacy;
- Negotiation—realizing that winning the argument did not always provide the best solution;
- Tolerance—even when ideas do not make sense, hear them out.
“So, there are seven of us in a team, and we have weekly meetings … but it is not always easy because seven is quite a large number. It doesn’t sound like a large number, but it is, because, when you are trying to complete a single task, seven people talking over each other, trying to insert their opinion isn’t so easy to manage. So, when we had some individual task work where there were two or three people involved, the project progressed much faster.”(SM5e)
“There isn’t really a lot of celebration of groups apart from sports teams and things like that. I think there definitely should be, though. It would make things a lot more motivational and people would want to work together rather than wanting to achieve all the goals for themselves.”(SF13f)
3.2.2. Sub-Theme 2b: Personal Development
- Positivity—feeling good about working together—a huge sense of fun;
- Planning ahead—realizing that having an initial plan is the best way to start something, even of the plan is not the way that things happened in the end;
- Critical thinking—not only accepting other views but actively imagining them in order to improve an idea;
- Creative thinking—e.g., coming up with multiple solutions before choosing one.
“First of all, … you kind of don’t want to do it because it is a lot of work and, if you do it, you are proud of it and it is a really great feeling when you achieve something.”(SM7e)
“One skill, I think that we prove it, is to listen to the opinions of our classmates, the other pupils that are with us, and we learnt, too, that everything is possible if we think with creativity and think … in a very positive way.”(SM5f)
3.2.3. Inter-Disciplinary Working (2c)
“If you are in one dimension, you only see lines in front of you, but, when you expand with different disciplines, you start seeing things in 3D; you can imagine them and you can develop your ideas even further.”(SM7e)
3.3. Theme 3: Teacher’s Role
3.3.1. Teacher as Facilitator (3a)
- Respect for pupils (listening—understanding—humility);
- Giving students space—letting them make mistakes;
- Not having all the answers—not something that came naturally to many of these teachers;
- Allowing students time to prepare—stepping back from a focus on end results and allowing processes to happen.
- Liaison with other school projects/parts of the school—working, often behind the scenes, to ensure that the students find a listening ear when they seek assistance;
- Motivator-guide—giving encouragement from the sidelines without taking over;
- Promoting engagement—”unblocking” students—stepping in to ask questions and deepen the discussion when students feel stuck.
3.3.2. Who the Teacher Is (3b)
- “More insecure”—this is not comfortable for many teachers (see data below);
- Increased motivation—emotional engagement—sense of “mission”—contributing to the general sense of positivity around the project;
- Open mindedness—when students surprise you with what they could do, accept this and avoid negativity in the face of apparently crazy ideas;
- Creativity (innovation/flexibility/entrepreneurship)—recognizing this in students can bring it out in teachers.
“…first step from the cathedral down and sit among the students.”(TF3e)
“The students fear that they would make a mistake, and, when you are a teacher, they constantly fear that they will say something wrong. If they don’t have that, if you can break down that fear, then your (work is) done, because they are full of ideas. Their heads are full of ideas. If they fear to speak them out loud, then you will never know.”(TF3e)
“It changed the fact that I don’t have to know everything. I was very anxious at the beginning of my teaching career because I was expected to know everything. This project changed this mentality for me.”(TF4e)
“I can say that I am more insecure when I am in the class doing these projects. I don’t know what will happen, so I don’t know how I will have to react to that … The feeling that you have, doing this project, is not the same as (when) you are in control of a class.”(TF1e)
“…nearly the end of the project, you feel good; they have attained something. They can show what they have learned to others, and you feel good. But it is true that going into this process, it is like, ‘What will happen today?”(TF1e)
“I think our relationships with the teachers have really improved. So, that is something we are going to carry into the next year.”(SM5f)
3.4. Theme 4: Cultural Shifts
- Moving away from individualism (see below);
- More permissive—”creating your own rules”;
- Negotiation—more listening to students;
- Relaxed atmosphere—this relates to openness to students’ ideas (3b);
- Rules still apply (only the culture is different)—teachers must still operate within the law and retain responsibility for their students;
- Vertical learning—generative effect exemplified by students deciding to work with younger classes.
“...in this project, we have more power than usual. In our school, every single teacher asked what do we want to do and at every meeting … went something like this, ‘What do you want? What do you want to build?’ We were listened to and our opinion matters.”(SF7e)
“It is more of a relaxed conversation about basically anything.”(SM16f)
“It is the last year in my school, but I have younger friends, and I think I am going to come back to school and participate further, because I would like to see the construction and everything.”(SF7f)
3.5. Additional Themes
3.5.1. Theme 5: Assessment/Evaluation of Students
- Use of a “rubric” to guide/self-assessment;
- Presentations (including presenting projects to others at the Project meetings);
- Feedback from parents.
3.5.2. Theme 6: Community Engagement
- External communication/liaison (e.g., with media, municipalities, architects, police, Red Cross);
- “Schools can get in the way” when involving peers and other stakeholders;
- Continuum: Parents—wider family—community.
3.5.3. Theme 7: How to Run Projects—From the Students’ Perspective
- Manage your support from teachers, seek different levels of support from different teachers and avoid getting too much;
- Maintain the legacy of the project, e.g., by keeping in touch with classes below as you move on;
- Use learning from the project, e.g., talking to older people, for personal development/growth;
- Decide how to choose your project and resolve conflicts (e.g., voting, guidelines, consensus);
- Consider how your project fits its context, “in this time and this place”;
- Work cooperatively across time and space, e.g., using digital platforms;
- Set objectives—and be prepared to exceed them;
- Use time, e.g., deadlines, to get things done;
- Adjust to the available resources, e.g., money, time, workload;
- Use your team to keep motivated;
- Be realistic in making community links, consider what is possible/impossible.
3.6.1. Novel Teaching Approaches vs. Unchanging Rules
A group of (13-year old) students from the host school challenged their teachers to allow them to choose their own project teams.
The teachers explained that they were concerned about friends choosing each other; it was the teachers’ responsibility to ensure that no student was excluded from their teams.
The students responded by saying that if they knew this—and any other criteria that might be required—they could be trusted to choose the teams accordingly. They asked that teachers should give them the information they need to do this. (Notes from meeting)
3.6.2. A Contradiction between Objects
SF2c: …there are some people that help you to achieve your goals. I mean, we collaborate with all of the school by tests with activities that they want to make.
Interviewer: So, you ask them?
SF2c: Yes. And most of the teachers, not all, were involved in this project because they helped us… you need people to achieve your goals. You cannot do it all by yourself. You can be by yourself until a point, and, after that, you need someone.
4.1. Impacts on Student Learning
4.2. “Step from the Cathedral down”—Professional and Pedagogical Implications for Teachers
4.3. Wider Implications
4.4. Research Limitations and Further Enquiry
4.4.2. Possibilities for Further Enquiry
Institutional Review Board Statement
Informed Consent Statement
Data Availability Statement
Conflicts of Interest
- Hicks, D. Lessons for the Future: The Missing Dimension in Education; Routledge Falmer: London, UK, 2002. [Google Scholar]
- Hicks, D. Stories of hope: A response to the ‘psychology of despair’. Environ. Educ. Res. 1998, 4, 165–176. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Corner, A.; Roberts, O.; Chiari, S.; Voller, S.; Mayrhuber, E.; Mandl, S.; Monson, K. How do young people engage with climate change? The role of knowledge, values, message framing, and trusted communicators. WIREs Clim. Chang. 2015, 6, 523–534. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Qvortrup, J. Are Children Human Beings or Human Becomings? A Critical Assessment of Outcome Thinking. Riv. Internazionale Sci. Soc. 2009, 3–4, 631–653. [Google Scholar]
- Global Climate Strike. Available online: https://globalclimatestrike.net (accessed on 17 December 2020).
- Engeström, Y. Learning by Expanding: An Activity—Theoretical Approach to Developmental Research. Available online: http://lchc.ucsd.edu/mca/Paper/Engestrom/expanding (accessed on 17 July 2018).
- Engeström, Y. (Ed.) Perspectives on Activity Theory; Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, UK, 1999. [Google Scholar]
- Taylor, N.; Quinn, F.; Jenkins, K.; Miller-Brown, H.; Rizk, N.; Prodromou, T.; Serow, P.; Taylor, S. Education for Sustainability in the Secondary Sector—A Review. J. Educ. Sustain. Dev. 2019, 13, 102–122. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Blanchet-Cohen, N. Rainbow Warriors: The Unfolding of Agency in Early Adolescents’ Environmental Involvement. In Engaging Environmental Education: Learning, Culture and Agency; Stevenson, R.B., Dillon, J., Eds.; Sense Publishers: Rotterdam, The Netherlands, 2010; pp. 31–57. [Google Scholar]
- Rousseau, J.-J. Emile or on Education. Extracts; Translation by Eleanor Worthington; Heath & Co: Boston, MA, USA, 1889. [Google Scholar]
- Hart, R. Children’s Participation from Tokenism to Citizenship; UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre: Florence, Italy, 1992. [Google Scholar]
- Arnstein, S.R. A Ladder of Citizen Participation. J. Am. Plan. Assoc. 1969, 35, 216–224. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef][Green Version]
- OECD. The Future We Want; The Future of Education and Skills 2030 Project; OECD: Paris, France, 2018. [Google Scholar]
- Campbell, C. Distinguishing the Power of Agency from Agentic Power: A Note on Weber and the “Black Box” of Personal Agency. Sociol. Theory 2009, 27, 407–418. Available online: https://www.jstor.org/stable/40376120 (accessed on 4 September 2020). [CrossRef]
- Von Braun, J. Children as Agents of Change for Sustainable Development. In Children and Sustainable Development: Ecological Education in a Globalized World; Battro, A.M., Léna, P., Sorondo, M.S., Von Braun, J., Eds.; Springer: Dordrecht, The Netherlands, 2017; pp. 17–30. [Google Scholar]
- Giddens, A. The Third Way; Polity Press: Cambridge, UK, 1998. [Google Scholar]
- Giddens, A. Structuration theory: Past, present and future. In Giddens’ Theory of Structuration: A Critical Appreciation; Bryant, C.G.A., Jary, D., Eds.; Routledge: London, UK, 1991; pp. 201–221. [Google Scholar]
- Apple, M. Can Education Change Society? Routledge: London, UK; New York, NY, USA, 2013. [Google Scholar]
- Giroux, H.A. Rethinking Education as the Practice of Freedom: Paulo Freire and the promise of critical pedagogy. Policy Futures Educ. 2010, 8, 715–721. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef][Green Version]
- Freire, P. Pedagogy of the Oppressed; Penguin: London, UK, 1968. [Google Scholar]
- Durrant, J. Teacher Agency, Professional Development and School Improvement; Routledge: London, UK, 2019. [Google Scholar]
- Englund, C.; Price, L. Facilitating agency: The change laboratory as an intervention for collaborative sustainable development in higher education. Int. J. Acad. Dev. 2018, 23, 192–205. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Vare, P.; Scott, W.A.H. Learning for a Change: Exploring the relationship between education and sustainable development. J. Educ. Sustain. Dev. 2007, 1, 191–198. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Aguirre-Bielschowsky, I.; Lawson, R.; Stephenson, J.; Todd, S. Energy literacy and agency of New Zealand children. Environ. Educ. Res. 2017, 23, 832–854. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Trott, C.D. Children’s constructive climate change engagement: Empowering awareness, agency, and action. Environ. Educ. Res. 2020, 26, 532–554. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Blanchet-Cohen, N. Taking a stance: Child agency across the dimensions of early adolescents’ environmental involvement. Environ. Educ. Res. 2008, 14, 257–272. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Jensen, B.B.; Schnack, K. The Action Competence Approach in Environmental Education. Environ. Educ. Res. 1997, 3, 163–178, published online 2006. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Positive Psychology Blog. Available online: https://positivepsychology.com/perma-model/#seligman-perma-model (accessed on 4 September 2020).
- Sleurs, W. Competencies for ESD (Education for Sustainable Development) Teachers: A Framework to Integrate ESD in the Curriculum of Teacher Training Institutes; Curriculum, Sustainable Development, Competences, Teacher Training (CSCT); Comenius 2.1 Project; UN: Brussels, Belgium, 2008; Available online: https://www.unece.org/fileadmin/DAM/env/esd/inf.meeting.docs/EGonInd/8mtg/CSCT%20Handbook_Extract.pdf (accessed on 27 November 2020).
- UNECE. Learning for the Future: Competences in Education for Sustainable Development; United Nations Economic Commission for Europe: Geneva, Switzerland, 2012; Available online: https://www.unece.org/fileadmin/DAM/env/esd/ESD_Publications/Competences_Publication.pdf (accessed on 27 November 2020).
- Bertschy, F.; Künzli, C.; Lehmann, M. Teachers’ Competencies for the Implementation of Educational Offers in the Field of Education for Sustainable Development. Sustainability 2013, 5, 5067–5080. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef][Green Version]
- Rieckmann, M. Chapter 2—Learning to transform the world: Key competencies in ESD. In Issues and Trends in Education for Sustainable Development; Leicht, A., Heiss, J., Byun, W.J., Eds.; UNESCO: Paris, France, 2018; pp. 39–59. Available online: http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0026/002614/261445E.pdf (accessed on 3 October 2019).
- Vare, P.; Arro, G.; de Hamer, A.; Del Gobbo, G.; de Vries, G.; Farioli, F.; Kadji-Beltran, C.; Kangur, M.; Mayer, M.; Millican, R.; et al. Devising a Competence-Based Training Program for Educators of Sustainable Development: Lessons Learned. Sustainability 2019, 11, 1890. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef][Green Version]
- Corres, A.; Rieckmann, M.; Espasa, A.; Ruiz-Mallén, I. Educator Competences in Sustainability Education: A Systematic Review of Frameworks. Sustainability 2020, 12, 9858. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Wilhelm, S.; Förster, R.; Zimmermann, A. Implementing competence orientation—Towards constructively aligned education for sustainable development in university-level teaching-and learning. Sustainability 2019, 11, 1891. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef][Green Version]
- Cohen, L.; Manion, L.; Morrison, K. Research Methods in Education; Routledge: London, UK, 2011. [Google Scholar]
- Jonassen, D.H.; Land, S.M. (Eds.) Theoretical Foundation of Learning Environments; Lawrence Erlbaum Associates: Mahwah, NJ, USA, 2000. [Google Scholar]
- Nussbaumer, D. An overview of cultural historical activity theory (CHAT) use in classroom research 2000 to 2009. Educ. Rev. 2012, 64, 37–55. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Toiviainen, H.; Engeström, Y. Expansive Learning in and for Work. In Knowledge, Values and Educational Policy: A Critical Perspective; Daniels, H., Lauder, H., Porter, J., Eds.; Routledge: Abingdon, UK, 2009; pp. 95–110. [Google Scholar]
- Sohn, B.K.; Thomas, S.P.; Greenberg, K.H.; Pollio, H.R. Hearing the Voices of Students and Teachers: A Phenomenological Approach to Educational Research. Qual. Res. Educ. 2017, 6, 121–148. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef][Green Version]
- Marton, F. Phenomenography—Describing Conceptions of the World Around Us. Instr. Sci. 1981, 10, 177–200. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Edwards, A.; Daniels, H.; Gallagher, T.; Ledbetter, J.; Warmington, P. Improving Inter-Professional Collaborations: Multi-Agency Working for Children’s Wellbeing; Routledge: London, UK, 2009. [Google Scholar]
- University of Gloucestershire Ethical Guidelines, Research Ethics: Handbook of Principles and Procedures. Available online: http://www.glos.ac.uk/research/pages/research-ethics.aspx (accessed on 14 December 2017).
- British Educational Research Association [BERA]. Ethical Guidelines for Educational Research, 4th ed.; BERA: London, UK; Available online: https://www.bera.ac.uk/researchers-resources/publications/ethical-guidelines-for-educational-research-2018 (accessed on 15 July 2018).
- Ritchie, J.; Lewis, J.; McNaughton Nicholls, C.; Ormston, R. Qualitative Research for the Social Sciences, 2nd ed.; Sage: London, UK, 2014. [Google Scholar]
- Braun, V.; Clarke, V. Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qual. Res. Psychol. 2008, 3, 77–101. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef][Green Version]
- Guba, E.G. Criteria for assessing the trustworthiness of naturalistic inquiries. Educ. Technol. Res. Dev. 1981, 29, 75–91. [Google Scholar]
- Osberg, D.; Biesta, G. The emergent curriculum: Navigating a complex course between unguided learning and planned enculturation. J. Curric. Stud. 2008, 40, 313–328. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Biesta, G. Good education in an age of measurement: On the need to reconnect with the question of purpose in education. Educ. Assess. Eval. Account. 2009, 21, 33–46. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Ojala, M. Confronting Macrosocial Worries: Worry About Environmental Problems and Proactive Coping Among a Group of Young Volunteers. Futures 2007, 39, 729–745. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Jacquez, F.; Trott, C.; Wren, A.R.; Ashraf, L.J.; Williams, S.E. Dream It! Preliminary Evidence for an Educational Tool to Increase Children’s Optimistic Thinking. Child Youth Care Forum 2020, 49, 877–892. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Trott, C.D. What difference does it make? Exploring the transformative potential of everyday climate crisis activism by children and youth. Child. Geogr. 2021. Forthcoming Special Issue. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Delors, J. Learning: The Treasure Within: Report to UNESCO of the International Commission on Education for the Twenty-First Century; UNESCO: Paris, France, 1996. [Google Scholar]
- Nikel, J. Making sense of education ‘responsibly’: Findings from a study of student teachers’ understanding(s) of education, sustainable development and Education for Sustainable Development. Environ. Educ. Res. 2007, 13, 545–564. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Popova, A.; Evans, D.K.; Arancibia, V. Training Teachers on the Job What Works and How to Measure It; World Bank Policy Research Working Paper; The World Bank: Washington, DC, USA, 2016. [Google Scholar]
- Ball, S. The Teacher’s Soul and the Terrors of Perfomativity. J. Educ. Policy 2003, 18, 215–228. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Ball, S.; Olmedo, A. Care of the self, resistance and subjectivity under neoliberal governmentalities. Crit. Stud. Educ. 2013, 54, 85–96. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Spielman, A. The Annual Report of Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Education, Children’s Services and Skills 2019/20; HMSO: London, UK, 2020. [Google Scholar]
- Luo, H.; Yang, T.; Xue, J.; Zuo, M. Impact of student agency on learning performance and learning experience in a flipped classroom. BJET 2019, 50, 819–831. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Taub, M.; Sawyer, R.; Smith, A.; Rowe, J.; Azevedo, R.; Lester, J. The agency effect: The impact of student agency on learning, emotions, and problem-solving behaviors in a game-based learning environment. Comput. Educ. 2020, 147, 103781. [Google Scholar] [CrossRef]
- Department for Health and Social Care (2021) Press Release—Blueprint Launched for NHS and Social Care Reform Following Pandemic: New Proposals Launched to Join Up Health and Care Services and Embed Lessons Learned from the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic. Available online: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/blueprint-launched-for-nhs-and-social-care-reform-following-pandemic (accessed on 11 February 2021).
Publisher’s Note: MDPI stays neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
© 2021 by the author. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).