Special Issue "Transgressive Learning and Transformations to Sustainability"

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050). This special issue belongs to the section "Sustainable Education and Approaches".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 April 2020).

Special Issue Editors

Prof. Dr. Heila Lotz-Sisitka
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Guest Editor
Environmental Learning Research Centre, Rhodes University, Lucas Avenue, South Africa
Interests: Sustainability Education; Transformative and Transgressive Learning; Agency; Critical Research Methodologies
Special Issues and Collections in MDPI journals
Dr. Stefan Bengtsson
Website
Guest Editor
Uppsala Universitet, Uppsala, Sweden
Interests: Education and Sustainability; Educational Philosophy; Educational Change; Learning

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

To transgress means to ‘step beyond’, to ‘overstep’, ‘to go beyond a boundary’ or ‘to go against the grain’. Importantly, transgression may also occur via care, caution and compassion, i.e. transgression that is mindful and ethically responsive. Transgression necessarily includes learning encounters with that which is not yet there, disruptively or seamlessly emerging via a process in open systems. When we connect transgression to the realm of learning, we may reach a more radical form of questioning and acting out what transformations to sustainability, or sustainable development could mean in diverse contexts, challenging that which has become normalized or that which is acted out as the (unsustainable) status quo.  

In 2015, countries around the world ambitiously signed up to 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The intention of the SDGs, if interpreted through the targets, is to mobilise significant societal resources towards enabling radical changes towards sustainability. Such radical changes are needed, for while sustainable development is not an uncontested notion, its current entrenchment in the modern paradigm may render its ability to address sustainability challenges limited, especially when viewed in the context of contemporary discourse on wicked sustainable development/sustainability issues. Sustainability issues are not disconnected from histories and contemporary enactments of colonial intrusion, neo-liberalism, amplified forms of commodification, patriarchy, dehumanization, nature–culture bifurcations, and social injustices—all of which need to be transgressed for real transformations to sustainability to emerge. They are also connected to contemporary educational theory and histories which are proving to be inadequate for engaging with the nature of wicked sustainability problems in the Anthropocene.

There are numerous dimensions and dynamics associated with 'transgressive learning' in the move towards sustainability. These relate not only to how sustainability is or is not framed as key concept for guiding learning, but also how transgression and disruption is framed as a component of learning. Highlighting some of the qualities of transgressive learning, researchers in the International Science Council research programme on transformations to sustainability (http://transgressivelearning.org/) are articulating such learning (t-learning) as including inter-alia, the pursuit of cognitive justice, solidarity building, metaphorical meaning making, social critique, optimal disruption, creating empathy, reclaiming knowledge(s) and cultures lost (amongst other features of such learning). Their work also shows that challenging societal contradictions and conceptual paradoxes and seeing these as fertile grounds for transgressive learning and disruptive capacity building offers spaces for expansive learning, transgressing norms, surfacing ‘silent knowledges’, and navigating power dynamics.

In this Special Issue, we invite authors to consider transgression as a metaphor and Leitmotif for the kind(s) of learning that are needed if sustainability, social justice and more benign humaNature relations are to be realised. This may involve transgressing and engaging taken-for-granted theories and metaphors of learning such as acquisition, or participation; it may involve transgressing current structural constraints in education and learning systems; it may involve unlocking deep-seated systemic blockages that hold unsustainability in place. It may also involve challenging emerging notions of transgressive learning!

We invite research that covers theory building, methodology development, and reflections on transgressive learning praxis in diverse cultural, political–economic, and social–ecological contexts. We invite papers that represent the full scope of educational research including public pedagogy, informal learning, formal education, community education, social learning, comparative education, transdisciplinary higher education, e-learning and more. Via such contributions, authors contributing to this Special Issue might add to an emerging body of work on transgressive learning and transformations to sustainability, or they may reflexively engage with existing work articulating transgressive learning in order to clarify and substantiate understanding of processes of transgressive learning in transformations to sustainability. We invite submissions from empirical and philosophical/theoretical studies, preferably a combination of the two.

Prof. Dr. Heila Lotz-Sisitka
Dr. Stefan Bengtsson
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Sustainability is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1900 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • Transgressive learning
  • Transformative learning
  • Education and sustainability
  • Transdisciplinary learning
  • Disruptive capacity building
  • Learning-based transitions
  • Transformations to sustainability

Published Papers (11 papers)

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Research

Open AccessArticle
“A Little Less Conversation, a Little More Action Please”: Examining Students’ Voices on Education, Transgression, and Societal Change
Sustainability 2020, 12(15), 6231; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12156231 - 03 Aug 2020
Viewed by 610
Abstract
Education for sustainability is urgent but also challenging when aiming for transformation, transgression, and action-oriented societal change. It is important to take into consideration students’ voices in order to enhance education, and this study used semi-structured interviews to explore students’ voices on the [...] Read more.
Education for sustainability is urgent but also challenging when aiming for transformation, transgression, and action-oriented societal change. It is important to take into consideration students’ voices in order to enhance education, and this study used semi-structured interviews to explore students’ voices on the role of contemporary education, in society, in relation to urgent issues related to sustainability. Thematic content analysis was applied, as a first step, to analyse the students’ answers. Then a T-learning model was applied on the themes to further analyse the results in relation to transformative, transgressive, and action-oriented learning. The students reflected on a diversity of important issues in society and the possibilities of action for change, many of them related to their personal life and experiences. They also talked about diverse educational experiences, but our analysis indicated that their current education did not always meet the needs of a more transgressive and change-oriented learning. Finally, we have found that the T-learning model has the potential to be used for educational reflection and for developing new understandings of teaching and learning. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Transgressive Learning and Transformations to Sustainability)
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Open AccessArticle
Capturing Transgressive Learning in Communities Spiraling towards Sustainability
Sustainability 2020, 12(12), 4873; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12124873 - 15 Jun 2020
Viewed by 518
Abstract
This empirical paper addresses the need for more in depth understanding of signs and characteristics of transgressive learning in a context of runaway climate change. In a world characterized by systemic global dysfunction, there is an urgency to foster rapid systemic change which [...] Read more.
This empirical paper addresses the need for more in depth understanding of signs and characteristics of transgressive learning in a context of runaway climate change. In a world characterized by systemic global dysfunction, there is an urgency to foster rapid systemic change which can steer our paths towards meeting the SDG goals. The contention of this paper is that, although there is a need for rapid change, it is fundamental to understand how such change can come about, so as to co-create and investigate learning environments and forms of learning that can lead to a systemic change towards sustainability. Anchored in the emerging concept of transgressive learning, this article employs the innovative Living Spiral model to track critical learning moments by facilitators and participants in multi-stakeholder Transformation Labs (T-Labs), which took place in 2017/2018 in various grassroots sustainability initiatives in Colombia and The Netherlands. The results of the analysis highlight the importance of the values of “acknowledging uncertainty”, “community”, and “relationality” in disrupting world-views through promoting reflexivity in participants and facilitators. This paper concludes that more research on the power dynamics of “absences” in transformative research is needed to better capture the challenges of overcoming sustainability challenges. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Transgressive Learning and Transformations to Sustainability)
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Open AccessArticle
Transgressing Boundaries between Community Learning and Higher Education: Levers and Barriers
Sustainability 2020, 12(7), 2601; https://doi.org/10.3390/su12072601 - 25 Mar 2020
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 903
Abstract
In times of global systemic dysfunction, there is an increasing need to bridge higher education with community-based learning environments so as to generate locally relevant responses towards sustainability challenges. This can be achieved by creating and supporting so-called learning ecologies that blend informal [...] Read more.
In times of global systemic dysfunction, there is an increasing need to bridge higher education with community-based learning environments so as to generate locally relevant responses towards sustainability challenges. This can be achieved by creating and supporting so-called learning ecologies that blend informal community-based forms of learning with more formal learning found in higher education environments. The objective of this paper is to explore the levers and barriers for connecting the above forms of learning through the theory and practice of an educational approach that fully engages the heart (feelings), head (thinking), and hands (doing). First, we present the development of an educational approach called Koru, based on a methodology of transgressive action research. Second, we critically analyze how this approach was put into practice through a community-learning course on responsible tourism held in Colombia. Results show that ICT, relations to place, and intercultural communication acted as levers toward bridging forms of learning between participants, but addressing underlying power structures between participants need more attention for educational boundaries to be genuinely transgressed. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Transgressive Learning and Transformations to Sustainability)
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Open AccessArticle
On the Design of a Youth-Led, Issue-Based, Crowdsourced Global Monitoring Framework for the SDGs
Sustainability 2019, 11(23), 6839; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11236839 - 02 Dec 2019
Viewed by 622
Abstract
In this paper, we propose a novel methodology and design to contribute towards the achievement of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by member states of the United Nations for a better and more sustainable future for all. We particularly focus on [...] Read more.
In this paper, we propose a novel methodology and design to contribute towards the achievement of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by member states of the United Nations for a better and more sustainable future for all. We particularly focus on achieving SDG 4.7—using education to ensure all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development. We describe the design of a crowdsourced approach to monitor issues at a local level, and then use the insights gained to indicate how learning can be achieved by the entire community. We begin by encouraging local communities to identify issues that they are concerned about, with an assumption that any issue identified will fall within the purview of the 17 SDGs. Each issue is then tagged with a plurality of actions taken to address it. Finally, we tag the positive or negative changes in the issue as perceived by members of the local community. This data is used to broadly indicate quantitative measures of community learning when solving a societal problem, in turn telling us how SDG 4.7 is being achieved. The paper describes the design of a unique, youth-led, technology-based, bottom-up approach, applicable to communities across the globe, which can potentially ensure transgressive learning through participation of and monitoring by the local community leading to sustainable development. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Transgressive Learning and Transformations to Sustainability)
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Open AccessArticle
Exploring Group Solidarity for Insights into Qualities of T-learning
Sustainability 2019, 11(23), 6825; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11236825 - 02 Dec 2019
Viewed by 585
Abstract
Across the world, organised groups of farmers participating in just and sustainability transformations encounter multiple obstacles. Through solidarity manifested in iterative processes of questioning, co-learning, collective action and reflection, and value creation for themselves and for others, some succeed in overcoming them. This [...] Read more.
Across the world, organised groups of farmers participating in just and sustainability transformations encounter multiple obstacles. Through solidarity manifested in iterative processes of questioning, co-learning, collective action and reflection, and value creation for themselves and for others, some succeed in overcoming them. This article investigates how a district organic farmer association in Zimbabwe is encountering and handling group solidarity challenges arising from shifting from local to district level coordinated organic production and marketing. Based on the use of change laboratory, this paper explores solidarity at the local niche and networked district level to seek insights into the qualities of T-learning. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Transgressive Learning and Transformations to Sustainability)
Open AccessArticle
Making (Non)Sense of Urban Water Flows: Qualities and Processes for Transformative and Transgressive Learning Moments
Sustainability 2019, 11(23), 6817; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11236817 - 01 Dec 2019
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 664
Abstract
Urban sustainability and justice depend upon the flow of water across complex urban space. Yet, the characteristics of urban space produce a fragmented sense of our water resources. Cape Town, South Africa, the context of this research, is one such city whose water [...] Read more.
Urban sustainability and justice depend upon the flow of water across complex urban space. Yet, the characteristics of urban space produce a fragmented sense of our water resources. Cape Town, South Africa, the context of this research, is one such city whose water challenges have been exacerbated by climate change-induced drought, to the extent that the city nearly shut off the water running to residents’ taps. This context presents a particular challenge for the focus of this special issue, transformative and transgressive learning, an emerging arena of thought and practice concerned with learning processes that might foster more sustainable socio-ecological relations. The empirical material for this research draws from 12 arts-based inquiry workshops run with youth in an environmental organisation over four months, exploring a local water crisis. The data were generated through an engaged arts-based research process. The paper traces how transformative and transgressive learning in the context of urban water crisis might be characterised as making (non)sense by bringing the empirical material into dialogue with five entry points of transformative and transgressive learning literature rooted in Freirean educational praxis. This paper crafts and engages the concept of making (non)sense, a way of thinking about qualities and processes of learning praxis that responds to the wicked sustainability challenges we face today, particularly in terms of a Global South perspective. I argue such a praxis needs qualities and processes that disrupt and trouble the norm in the context of the socio-ecological challenge of urban water. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Transgressive Learning and Transformations to Sustainability)
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Open AccessArticle
Transformative Social Learning for Agricultural Sustainability and Climate Change Adaptation in the Vietnam Mekong Delta
Sustainability 2019, 11(23), 6775; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11236775 - 29 Nov 2019
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 712
Abstract
Climate change has seriously affected agriculture and many aspects of the life of local people in the Vietnam Mekong Delta (VMD). Learning to shift towards sustainable development to successfully adapt to climate change is essential. The VACB (V—garden/orchard; A—fishing farm; C—livestock farm; B—biogas) [...] Read more.
Climate change has seriously affected agriculture and many aspects of the life of local people in the Vietnam Mekong Delta (VMD). Learning to shift towards sustainable development to successfully adapt to climate change is essential. The VACB (V—garden/orchard; A—fishing farm; C—livestock farm; B—biogas) model is considered one of the best approaches and methods to adapt to climate change in the VMD. This paper aims to explore the transformative social learning and sustainable development associated with this model in terms of agricultural transformation for sustainability to climate change adaptation in the VMD. The mixed methods approach that guided the data collection included focus group discussions, in-depth interviews with key informants and household surveys. Our findings show that there are three learning processes associated with transformative social learning linked to the VACB model: instrumental, communicative and emancipatory learning. Farmers reported increased knowledge and improved relationships and efficiency when applying the VACB model using several learning channels, both formal and informal. Farmers highlighted six factors that influenced transformative social learning during the adoption and development of the VACB model and several barriers to implementing adaptation strategies to climate change in an attempt to upscale the VACB model. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Transgressive Learning and Transformations to Sustainability)
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Open AccessArticle
Teachers’ Transgressive Pedagogical Practices in Context: Ecology, Politics, and Social Change
Sustainability 2019, 11(21), 6145; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11216145 - 04 Nov 2019
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 595
Abstract
Chilean teachers face the urgent challenge of incorporating environmental and sustainability dimensions into their teaching practices within an economic and social context of extreme neoliberalism, which has an important impact on both teaching practices and hegemonic perspectives on the environment. Therefore, this article [...] Read more.
Chilean teachers face the urgent challenge of incorporating environmental and sustainability dimensions into their teaching practices within an economic and social context of extreme neoliberalism, which has an important impact on both teaching practices and hegemonic perspectives on the environment. Therefore, this article explores the motivations that guide the environment-related practices of teachers at Chilean secondary schools. Using a framework of pragmatism and phenomenology, it addresses teachers’ meaning-making through the interpretative axes of their views on the environment and theories of education, addressing the following categories: (1) connection and consciousness; (2) participation and politics; and (3) re-thinking education. The discussion emphasizes the importance of understanding “environmental issues” in context, together with the transversal axis of social change. Teachers’ meaning-making arises from their social and historical context and can be interpreted from the standpoint of traditions of thought originating in Latin America. The article argues that the transgressive element in the studied practices is social change, understood as community action arising from a combination of critical reflection and with an emphasis on the co-production of knowledge in this collective sphere. This is experienced by the teachers as a challenge to their capacity to address the inherent uncertainty of knowledge and the projection of a utopian society as a social right. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Transgressive Learning and Transformations to Sustainability)
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Open AccessArticle
Research for the People, by the People: The Political Practice of Cognitive Justice and Transformative Learning in Environmental Social Movements
Sustainability 2019, 11(20), 5611; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11205611 - 12 Oct 2019
Viewed by 690
Abstract
This paper describes how Changing Practice courses, developed by environmental activists in South Africa and based on social learning practice, have seeded cognitive justice action. For the educator-activists who facilitated these courses, it became apparent that we needed a bold emancipatory pedagogy which [...] Read more.
This paper describes how Changing Practice courses, developed by environmental activists in South Africa and based on social learning practice, have seeded cognitive justice action. For the educator-activists who facilitated these courses, it became apparent that we needed a bold emancipatory pedagogy which included cognitive justice issues. This enabled us and the activist-researcher participants to understand the extent to which local, indigenous, and spiritual knowledge had been excluded from water governance. The paper investigates how participants in the ‘Water and Tradition’ change project, established by the Vaal Environmental Justice Alliance (VEJA, engaged with cognitive justice, to demonstrate how African spiritual practice offers a re-visioning of the natural world. Finally, using the tools of critical realist theory, the paper reviews how VEJA bring about transformative social action through their participation in the Changing Practice course. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Transgressive Learning and Transformations to Sustainability)
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Open AccessArticle
Engaging with the Beyond—Diffracting Conceptions of T-Learning
Sustainability 2019, 11(12), 3430; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11123430 - 21 Jun 2019
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 1124
Abstract
This paper develops a theory of transgressive learning (t-learning) as it was experimented with in the International Science Council t-learning network. The method applied is a diffractive reading of conceptions of transgression in academic publications emerging from different cases. The results show that [...] Read more.
This paper develops a theory of transgressive learning (t-learning) as it was experimented with in the International Science Council t-learning network. The method applied is a diffractive reading of conceptions of transgression in academic publications emerging from different cases. The results show that there can be no definite conduct to or understanding of transgression, as transgression itself entails a subversion of rules, contexts, and borders. Instead, the results document several overarching categorical positions and axiomatic understandings of transgression that emerge from the background of context-specific wicked sustainability issues. Transgressive learning can be understood as a set of contextually diverse techniques and practices that attempt to bring about change through and in learning. Transgressive learning can result in experiential learning excesses where the excess is the very source of difference and makes change possible. The diversity of conceptions of transgressive learning open up new entry points for engaging with sustainability-oriented learning and education that is open to change rather than to reproducing unsustainable social structures and dynamics. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Transgressive Learning and Transformations to Sustainability)
Open AccessArticle
On the Inevitable Bounding of Pluralism in ESE—An Empirical Study of the Swedish Green Flag Initiative
Sustainability 2019, 11(7), 2026; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11072026 - 05 Apr 2019
Viewed by 1802
Abstract
This paper explores potential tensions in transformative learning and environmental and sustainability education (ESE) between, on the one hand, pluralistic approaches, and, on the other hand, promotion of societal change to address urgent issues. We stipulate that design of ESE inevitably contributes to [...] Read more.
This paper explores potential tensions in transformative learning and environmental and sustainability education (ESE) between, on the one hand, pluralistic approaches, and, on the other hand, promotion of societal change to address urgent issues. We stipulate that design of ESE inevitably contributes to a bounding of the plurality of facts and values that are acknowledged in a given learning process. Based on a frame analysis of the Swedish Green Flag initiative, we argue that such bounding by design is a key aspect of how ESE practitioners handle tensions between pluralism and urgency, either consciously or unconsciously. Given its inevitability and importance, we assert that bounding by design is insufficiently theorized in ESE literature, which might partly explain that practitioners perceive pluralistic ideals as challenging. In the empirics, we discern three justifications for bounding by design: (i) certain facts or degree of scientific consensus; (ii) objectives decided by elected bodies; and (iii) decisions taken by student and teacher representatives. We point to the theory of libertarian paternalism and a typology of democratic legitimacy as conceptual tools that can guide further scrutiny of pluralistic ESE and support practitioners in undertaking conscious and transparent bounding by design. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Transgressive Learning and Transformations to Sustainability)
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