Shape Shifting: Tracking the Use and Meaning of Environmental and Sustainability Education in Parliamentary Discourse

Vare, Paul ORCID: 0000-0003-3182-9105, López-Alcarria, Abigail and Olivares, Alberto (2019) Shape Shifting: Tracking the Use and Meaning of Environmental and Sustainability Education in Parliamentary Discourse. In: ECER 2019: Education in an Era of Risk – the Role of Educational Research for the Future, September 3-7, 2019, Hamburg, Germany. (Unpublished)

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How education practitioners understand concepts such as environmental and sustainability education (ESE) will inevitably be influenced by policy statements in this area. While there is rarely a direct linear relationship between education policy and educational practice (Olssen, Codd & O’Neill 2004), it is instructive to examine the discourse that takes place among policy makers so that this important factor in determining practice can be better understood. Such a study has particular significance when terms such as sustainable development are in use due to their highly contested nature (Farley and Smith 2014; Sato 2006). This work started as a supplementary study while researching the practices and perceptions of classroom teachers in relation to ESD. Significant findings in terms of the changing nature of political discourse in ESE led to this becoming a principle study in its own right. This paper explores policy-makers’ discourse around environmental education and education for sustainable development (ESD) as well as the concept of sustainable development itself. The primary source of data is Hansard, the verbatim record of UK Parliamentary debate (Hansard 1968-2017). The research adopts a Foucauldian analysis of the discussions taking place among politicians in relation to ESE policy as revealed through key word searches of the parliamentary transcript. While necessarily UK focused, the methods and findings of this research (developed by an international team of British and Spanish researchers) will inevitably have implications elsewhere. The analysis reveals the shifting nature of understandings around terms such as ‘sustainable development’ as well as the emergence and disappearance of related concepts. A selective review of policy texts related to the debates under study help to clarify these emergent meanings and demonstrate how such language games can translate into guidance (or lack of it) for educational practitioners.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Subjects: L Education > L Education (General)
L Education > LA History of education
Divisions: Schools and Research Institutes > School of Education and Science
Research Priority Areas: Society and Learning
Depositing User: Paul Vare
Date Deposited: 11 Sep 2019 11:11
Last Modified: 31 Aug 2023 08:43

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