March 28th, 2011

Teaching for Transformation: (Re)Designing sustainability courses

By Heather Burns

If educators are to effectively prepare learners with the knowledge, skills, and values they will need for creating more sustainable places and communities, a transition must be made from transmissive teaching models to transformative learning processes. But how can courses be designed or redesigned so that they create opportunities for transformational sustainability learning, and how can ecological principles guide this process? The Burns model of sustainability pedagogy provides a practical model for course design that is rooted in ecological principles. The Burns model is comprised of five key dimensions: (1)Content; (2)Perspectives; (3)Process; (4)Context; and (5)Design and seeks to: (1) increase learners’ systemic understanding of complex sustainability issues (Content); (2) provide learners with opportunities to think critically about dominant paradigms, practices and power relationships and consider complex ecological and social issues from diverse perspectives (Perspectives); (3) enhance learners’ civic responsibility and intentions to work toward sustainability through active participation and experience (Process); (4) increase learners’ understanding of and connection with the geographical place and the community in which they live (Context); and (5) utilize an ecological course design process that weaves the other four dimensions together to create transformative learning experiences (Design). This design process has the potential to create learning experiences that are transformative and lead to systemic sustainable change.

Full PDF:  Burns2011

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