Numerous studies predict a significant increase in the global consumption of both biotic and abiotic resources in the next decades. This can only be avoided by fundamental changes in our perpetual growth-based economic model. Such changes require political measures, a paradigm shift in the product-services system, changes in supply-chain management and in consumer behavior (e.g., [1
]). A shift of our resource intensive prosperity models from one billion people in Western countries to a further eight billion people in developing countries until 2050 would very likely go beyond the limits of numerous ecosystems around the world (e.g., [3
]). The amount of natural resources used for the production of goods and services is constantly increasing. The current extraction of primary resources reaches nearly 60 billion tons per year globally—nearly 50% more than 30 years ago (not including the so called “unused extractions” worth 95–130 billion tons in 2000). In economic terms, projections show that by 2030 the world gross domestic product (GDP) will have grown by 130%. This growth will indeed use more resources, causing raw material extraction to double within 20 years [3
]. These numbers lead to the widely accepted consensus that human societies need to develop much more sustainably. However, the design of substantive changes is tied to challenges on different levels (e.g., [6
The need for dematerialization results mainly from the perception of a limited environmental space [5
]. Therefore, the aim is an absolute decoupling of resource use from social prosperity. In addition, a sustainable use of resources in the sense of resource efficiency and conservation is necessary [8
]. The idea of MIPS (Material Input Per Service unit, see [14
]) can be seen as a generic measure to help decoupling material resource use from economic growth and human well-being [14
Apart from the demand for an efficient use of resources, the question arises of how resources are dealt with in general. The existing “culture” in regard to resources, or “resource culture”, is sustainably inconspicuous [20
]. Designing the change towards a sustainable resource culture (see also Section 3
) and associated resource competencies (see [21
]) is one of the subjects of transition research. Transition research studies complex socio-technical change processes in respect to the challenges of sustainable development. In the application fields of energy, transport/mobility and food, which have been subject to research, so far underlying patterns and dynamics of change processes have been identified [22
]. Based on the findings of systems and governance research, transition research essentially explains change as an interplay of development on three functional levels: “landscape”, “regime” and “niche” [23
]. Transition is understood as a profound change of the “regime” of a specific system. The regime describes the existing dominant structure of a social (sub)system, its culture and prevailing attitude. Factors of successful transition are, besides others, the alteration of values and norms, leading to the dispersion of new perceptions and behavioral patterns. Here, norms are understood as rules for action that are derived from someone’s personal opinions and beliefs influencing his/her overall attitude (see [24
], p. 32). Every norm is linked to a value, which should be realized (see [24
], p. 35).
Such a process can be triggered by the combination and interplay of numerous different developments [25
]. Educational processes play an important role [28
] in activating and accompanying the particular transition processes. The German Advisory Council on Global Change suggests “transformation research” as a new field for research, in which knowledge and understanding of transformation processes is a central theme [6
]. The aim is to accelerate the dissemination of innovations and wide integration of systemic approaches ([6
], p. 375). “Transformation education” provides society with findings of transformation research in a processed form. This is done by conveying knowledge about environmental problems that require transformation and transports goals, values and visions (compare [6
], p. 399). So, the “transformative education” develops an appreciation for behavioral options and solution approaches, such as building knowledge for climate friendly mobility behavior, sustainable food consumption or for cross-generation responsibility (compare [6
], p. 399).
All educational areas are called upon to promote education for resource efficiency and resource conservation (in short: “resource education”) as a significant aspect of education for sustainable development [21
]. Responsible stakeholders require suitable didactic tools for implementing a successful “resource education”. So far, there are no such didactic tools available. How can education take place in a setting that not only transfers knowledge but simultaneously enables the respective person to implement this newly learned knowledge in resource conservation behavior patterns?
The following sections present the problem (Section 2
) and illustrate the method of “open-didactic exploration” (short: ODE) using a practical example of resource education (Section 3
). With these practical implications in mind, the theoretical background of the method is easier to grasp (Section 4
). Finally, Section 5
discusses a potential contribution for education material based on the method ODE to “norm-oriented interpretation learning”.
2. Towards “Open-Didactic Exploration”—Interdisciplinary Approach
Previous research has shown that a sophisticated awareness of environmental issues is necessary but is not a sufficient condition for ecological behavior (e.g., [30
]). Knowledge and awareness are often given, yet the educational process fails in the application of respective knowledge to adequate environmental behavior. Besides that, indifference and complacency can play an important role. “Education for sustainable development” and the vocational education for sustainable development [28
] are now invoked to address the resulting research desire. A crucial point is the question of how individual behavior patterns with non-sustainable behavioral roots can be addressed and changed as well as disseminated (transfer). So far, existing concepts of education for sustainability only focus on identifying and describing necessary competencies without taking into account the non-linear relation between knowledge and behavior (see [33
By addressing this question, a model of interdisciplinary access was generated (see Figure 1
). Environmental psychology offers a long tradition in studying the relationship between knowledge and behavior. Promising indications for the roles of norms in decision-making processes are found here but are scarcely used by practitioners in education (e.g., [37
]). A possible reason for this is a lack of “translation” to pedagogical categories and lack of illustration of classic didactical questions (e.g., concerning subject-specific teaching methods, adequate learning surrounding, etc.
). In exchange, the research on pedagogical psychology holds cognitive-psychology insights in store that are based on educational research. These inform how learning happens and therefore also how the old can be unlearned and the new can be learned [38
]. Didactical Development Research in turn contributes to the design of appropriate educational materials to address behavioral patterns. This research refers back to the experience with course materials and recommendations for teaching and should be categorized as fundamental research to ease the transfer from theory into practice ([40
], p. 47; [41
]). These disciplines appear promising for a substantial progress on the question of development and change of behavioral patterns from a pedagogical perspective.
Connection between Transformational Education/Transformation Education and advisory scientific disciplines for the derivation of the method “open-didactic exploration” ODE (source: own illustration).
Connection between Transformational Education/Transformation Education and advisory scientific disciplines for the derivation of the method “open-didactic exploration” ODE (source: own illustration).
These insights call for a substantive theoretically based didactical approach for designing educational materials for the previously mentioned purpose. The following paragraphs present a project, which applied such didactical approach (the method ODE) in order to foster “norm-oriented interpretation learning”. In the course of the project “ResourceCulture”, a qualification module was developed in cooperation with/for practitioners in the field of professional training.
5. Conclusions and Outlook
The purpose of the didactic framework, introduced in this article, is to provide suggestions grounded in action-theory on how to design products to be applied in formal education processes (materials, modules, other formats). The framework serves as a precise orientation for typical elements of designing lessons, such as means and ends dimensions of their didactic preparation ([51
]; p. 11). However, the framework goes beyond this especially through the foundation of its didactic elements in action-theory.
Looking at the categorization of “practical models”, “category models” and “working models”, suggested by research on development of didactic materials [101
], our pedagogical framework to initiate norm-oriented interpretation learning is considered a “working model”. Such working models allow: “scientifically ensured possibilities for practitioners and can be considered as offerings in this sense. They are not yet so clearly defined as to be applicable only in a specific situation or result from the same, but they are also not so abstract that translation to fit a certain situation is impossible or difficult” (translated from [101
], p. 79). “Practitioners” (e.g., trainers in the field of vocational education, teachers in the field of primary and secondary or higher education) carry much weight in the ODE method and collaborate closely with researchers, as they know best the needs and skills of their target groups. The ODE method shows a set of basic elements that need to be taken into account when developing learning material. Researchers are less in the role of knowledge creators or providers but are also “participants of a pedagogical designing public” (translated from [101
]). The term “pedagogical designing public” describes the results of an exchange between all relevant actors, in this case: science, educational institutions, possibly administrations and politics [102
This approach bears certain challenges that could impair quality criteria of scientific work: Lack of resources (time, staff, money), low motivation of a target group, low predictability of results and evaluation processes as well as effectiveness of the developed products, that may have to be adapted to the specific case. These conditions demand increased attention from researchers, a suitable time and work plan and necessary professional competencies and other skills. Success depends on shared goals and content, creating suitable framework conditions (e.g., structural embedding) and maintaining their own autonomy ([41
], p. 99).
Considering the interpretation patterns approach, from a constructivist perspective it follows that individual and social norms are constructs tied to interpretations and in turn are part of interpretation patterns. Accordingly, they can also be addressed through construction methods. Competence development through a suitable method is means and ends within this context, aiming to change interpretation and, thereby, also behavior patterns. The constructivist perspective also clearly emphasizes the limited predictability of learning successes, in this case interpretation learning. Preconditions for this are the learner’s ability and willingness to reflect his/her own interpretation patterns (compare [60
]). Humans, in principal, are able to test the viability of their thinking and acting and to reconsider the underlying patterns in terms of “usefulness in life” and “future relevance” ([53
], p. 77). The vision of sustainability and new challenges associated with it increasingly give reason to do so, as they no longer let existing interpretation patterns appear “viable”/useful (compare [53
], p. 111). Interpretation patterns thereby forfeit a part of their “function of potential for justification” (compare [60
], p. 72). Besides initiating reflection processes to increase awareness for one’s own individual interpretations and interpretation patterns, alternative interpretations can be offered in education materials, that encourage learners to test different kinds of thinking and interpretations (cf
], p. 157). It is possible that alternative interpretations at first remain in an inactive state following a pedagogical intervention (“sleeper-effect”, compare [53
], p. 112): “Primarily, one has to imagine education processes in a way that reservoirs (new interpretations of world and self-image) form next to
conventional knowledge and conservative interpretations. This is not an either-or, but a parallelism (…)” (translated from [103
], p. 179, original emphasis). This also means that the evaluation of learning successes and the effectiveness tests of education materials may have limited reach, depending on the format.
Especially, insights on the role of social norms and social mediatedness of some characteristics of interpretation patterns (impact of earlier experiences and collective foundation of patterns, [60
]) point to the fact that opening the didactic framework to social science perspectives might be fruitful. Thus, complementing insights from (environmental) psychology, the framework could become even more interdisciplinary.
Looking at the integrated norm-activation and competency model [37
], the pedagogical goal is to empower learners to act according to their personal norms, even if social norms do not support or contradict such behavior. This idea is based on a pedagogical conception of mankind, in which education is understood as self-enlightenment ([53
], p. 7 and p. 77) and in which human responsibility can grow out of the capacity to act rational. Accordingly, reflection and methods for awareness building are an integral part of education, even though they should not be employed in the sense of “convincing pedagogy” ([60
], p. 149). Reusser [91
] sums up how this is a necessary process that can be long-winded: “Since it is not easy to modify or discard deeply embedded and collectively internalized convictions, thought routines and social practices, problems and resistance (reaction, defence, conflict, inert knowledge) should be expected. In order to change the “grammar of lessons” at a system level, endurance and a suitable culture of further vocational training is needed” (translated from [91
], p. 27). Stemming from the fact, that behavior changes are not only achieved through understanding but also through social pressure or financial incentives [88
], other intervention possibilities should be considered parallel to education. According to Matthies ([37
], pp. 75–76), this includes supporting structural changes to act differently, campaigns for influencing social norms and lowering behavioral costs (e.g., development of public transport, driving is “out”, lowering costs for tickets, see [104
]). In this context, unconscious processes and routines need to be addressed, that often appear resistant even against one’s better judgment and insight. Addressing routines could for instance be achieved through “experimental action”. Allowing new experiences in doing opens new behavioral possibilities. This is especially the case, when the learner is addressed on an emotional level as well (“Thinking-Feeling-Behaviour program”, [106
]. In this sense, running through the cyclical process from action to knowledge and back is significant.
Besides such interventions simultaneous to education, options are yet to be identified that can be integrated or combined with the ODE method. Further developing the approach of collaboration between researcher and practitioner within ODE, concepts such as “user-driven innovation” become interesting [107
]. Here, users are part of the production system by experimenting with sustainable products and evaluating them, thereby influencing their development. Everyday behaviors of users are the starting points in order to examine the reasons for non-sustainable or sustainable behavior. Similarly, it is conceivable that perturbations ([108
], p. 23) could be initiated through so called “transformational products” [109
]. For example, it was shown that visualizing individual water use during a shower, realized in an appealing design in the form of a “shower calendar”, led to more resource conservation behavior in the test groups [110
]. The significance of addressing users’ psychological needs is relevant here: “feeling competent”, “being in control”, “being encouraged to have fun” (compare [5
]). Looking towards such experimental settings requires an evaluation of how far formal learning contexts in the sense of the ODE method can be combined with informal learning contexts along the lines of, e.g., a “Living Lab” setting.
From the perspective of transition research, the ODE method contributes important suggestions and practical examples on how behavior patterns are formed and how they can be addressed. The method, therefore, contributes to transformative education ([6
], p. 399; see [111
]). As we have argued above (see Section 4.3
on How to Learn), interpretation patterns are socially mediated in the sense that as patterns they reflect similarly shared
beliefs in a societal group and can belong to certain social practices
. All learning processes are situated in the social context of action and, therefore, in the larger theoretical background of ODE we refer to transition theory (see [112
]), Giddens’ (1984, see [113
]) structuration theory and theories of social practice (see, e.g., [114
]). These theories describe a fundamental interdependence between individual action and social structures, which both enable and constrain action. At the same time, social structure is not an entity on its own but only exists through (re)production in such situated actions.
Social practices, as a routine kind of action of how everyday activities are performed, according to Shove et al.
(2012, see [115
]) consist of the elements meaning
. Meaning comprises mental activities, emotions and motivational knowledge. This element is, thus, directly linked to the idea of interpretation patterns, addressed by the ODE method. The concept of structuration and practice theories (see [112
]) therefore offer an attractive link between individual learning processes and the social environment by differentiating between practice as performance
(individual activities) and practice as entity
(recognizable, socially shared forms of doing things, see, e.g., [114
]). At the individual level, elements of practices are represented at the level of individual actors (compare: mental structures addressed by ODE) and at the level of practice as entity
it becomes clear that these are nevertheless socially constructed in interactive processes.
Linking the idea of social practices to transition analysis (see, e.g., [112
]), it can be said that shared beliefs and interpretative rules are condensed to form practices aligned with socio-technical regimes, thus, regimes consist of interrelated practices (see [117
]). As such, they are not always easily changed by individuals, comprise power relations and show the persistence of regimes—nevertheless, practice theories emphasize the possibility to also act different from existing rules and conceptualize change of practices through action. The ODE concept accordingly addresses and strengthens competencies for every person to advocate their own convictions, also against shared rules or expectations of significant others.
Through changing one element of practice, a change in such practice can occur (see [115
]). We assume that changing meaning (e.g., through building resource awareness) is a most relevant way to change practices involving high levels of resource consumption (see [104
]) and can be supported bottom-up through educational means like ODE.