Design Concept

Global ESD advances a Design Based Research approach to Education for Sustainable Development. Design-Based Research (DBR; DBR Collective, 2003) is an approach within education science that seeks to develop layers of generalizable design principles for teaching and learning, through the iterative implementation and evaluation of these principles across real-world school contexts, through long-term collaborations between university-based researchers and school-based educators, and with an emphasis on pragmatism and workability in real world contexts (Anderson & Shattuck, 2012 ; Cobb et al., 2003).

Educational design should support teachers in the development of content and teaching materials that are locally relevant and meaningful, while linking to empirically established principles of human behavioral ecology that span across contexts and scales. In other words, because formal education aims at both students’ academic development (the cultivation of future scientists) and personal development (the cultivation of future citizens), lesson design should orient subject matter around everyday experiences and issues in sustainable development that will most likely be relevant in students’ lives regardless of their occupational trajectory or the context they live within. At the same time, the diversity of lesson designs should be evaluated through long-term international researcher-practitioner collaboration, with the goal of further refining design principles and teacher supports that produce valued learning outcomes in classroom contexts.

To facilitate lesson design in this manner, we have developed a generalized educational design concept as a starting point, based on knowledge integration across the sciences of human learning.

An Educational Design Concept for ESD

A generalized design concept for linking the everyday ethology of student experience to the behavioral dimensions of sustainability issues. This design concept links students’ everyday experiences of behavioral variation to relevant behavioral dimensions of sustainability issues, through iterative scaffolding that uses human science research, computer-based simulations, and the linkages provided by analogies, metaphors, models, and narratives of human behavior, as key sources for developing classroom learning materials. By connecting to students’ intuitive, embodied understanding of the behavioral variation that pervades their world, educators can be provided with a powerful toolkit for cultivating more scientifically adequate and more applied understandings of our evolving species and our globalizing society. The concept also makes explicit the fact that the experiences that students have in their lives and in school emerge from an evolutionary developmental context, and feed into how communities will be shaped in the future. Conversely, experience and engagement in sustainable community development shapes part of students’ developmental context.


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