Science education for sustainability, epistemological reflections and educational practices: from natural sciences to trans-disciplinarity

Laura Colucci-Gray, Anna Perazzone, Martin Dodman, Elena Camino

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

In this three-part article we seek to establish connections between the emerging framework of ‘sustainability science’ and the methodological basis of research and practice in science education in order to bring forth knowledge and competences for sustainability. The first and second part deal with the implications of taking a ‘sustainability view’ in relation to knowledge processes. The complexity, uncertainty and urgency of global environmental problems challenge the foundations of reductionist, Western science. Within such debate, the proposal of sustainability science advocates for inter-disciplinary and inter-paradigmatic collaboration and it includes the requirements of ‘post-normal science’ proposing a respectful dialogue between experts and non-experts in the construction of new scientific knowledge. Such a change of epistemology is rooted into participation, deliberation and the gathering of ‘extended-facts’ where cultural framings and values are the hard components in the face of soft facts. A reflection on language and communication processes is thus the focus of knowledge practices and educational approaches aimed at sustainability. Language contains the roots of conceptual thinking (including scientific knowledge) and each culture and society are defined and limited by the language that is used to describe the world and to act upon people and nature. Within a scenario of sustainability, a discussion of scientific language is in order to retrace the connections between language and culture, and to promote a holistic view based on pluralism and dialogue. Drawing on the linguistic reflection, the third part gives examples of teaching and learning situations involving prospective science teachers in action-research contexts: these activities are set out to promote linguistic integration and to introduce reflexive process into science learning. Discussion will focus on the methodological features of a learning process that is akin to a communal and emancipatory research process within a sustainability scenario.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)127-183
Number of pages57
JournalCultural Studies of Science Education
Issue number1
Early online date21 Feb 2012
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2013

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • initial teacher education
  • post normal science
  • language
  • sustainability
  • action research


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