Teaching English and the Didactics of Sustainability: Translating Educational Research into Practice

Sofia AhlbergMMUc

Our belief is that the future legitimacy of the study of English literature lies squarely within its close ties to the teacher training programs. This is despite the views of some who see this affiliation between English and education as a threat to literary studies as an area of research in its own right. However, in our panel we demonstrate possible intersections between literary studies as a research field and the teaching profession where both fields have an interest in sustainability, broadly speaking, and environmental studies. Representing a range of interests in English as researchers, project developers and teachers at both tertiary institutions and the upper secondary school, our aim in this panel is to show ways in which didactics is an integral extension of literary studies as a research field. With this is mind, we wish to share with the audience the early stages of a widening-participation project between Uppsala University and the upper secondary school Katedralskolan, Uppsala, Sweden, where English language and literature is taught as a second language.

The aims of this project follow two related trajectories: to build community among those seeking to share knowledge from their university training in sustainability education with interested stakeholders, including regional schools and policymakers; and for these stakeholders reciprocally to inform research and scholarship. The goal of our collaboration is to support, implement, and disseminate practice-informed research that will further affect sustainability-aware education. One of our objectives is to supply data and other research findings to teaching and support-services that will inform best teaching and classroom practice for enhanced delivery of sustainability-aware curricula. This will be achieved through workshops and other education programs that explore and provide support to local schools for implementing sustainability goals in their literacy programs.

The dyad proposed between teachers and the field of environmental humanities is, we think, optimal, not least because it is anticipated that the research field of the scholar, on one hand, and the work of the practitioner, on the other, will be productively integrated to produce new knowledge of direct relevance to both. This is because, despite ubiquitous references to the importance of learning in relation to sustainability goals, the notion is poorly conceptualised and empirical research on how learning actually takes place is rare (Van Poeck et al, 2018). To address this shortfall, we wish to:

  • establish a solid, thorough research base to support and inform the work required to translate this knowledge into the curricula
  • identify a concurrent yet separate need for reforms to teacher education programs that will support pre- and in-service teachers to better understand didactics of sustainability
  • examine the role of a generally improved literacy as an intrinsic part of sustainability
  • develop a robust investigation into cutting-edge pedagogical approaches to respond to the demands especially facing the young in our society
  • identify and describe concrete strategies for the inclusion of issues regarding sustainable development in the classroom of young learners of English as a foreign language

Importantly, our collaboration is also about how to support students, classroom teachers, scholars, as well as non-formal educators, who struggle to respond to students’ lack of faith in the education system. This is an attempt to reignite a sense of the humanities as being responsive to real-world issues including loss of biodiversity, climate change and environmental justice.

Sofia Ahlberg: Associate Professor in English literature, Department of English, Uppsala University

Maria Allström: Project Leader, Professional Development, Department of Education, Uppsala University

Sue Ericson: PhD candidate, Department of English, Uppsala University (literature and didactics)

Frida Lust: an alumni of the Department of English, Uppsala University, now teacher in English (language and literature) at Katedralskolan

Sat 3:45 pm - 5:00 pm