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From rhetoric to reality: Examining the policy vision and the professional enactment of enacting Learning for Sustainability in Scottish schools

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)44-56
Number of pages13
JournalScottish Educational Review
Volume51
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 30 May 2019

Abstract

Learning for Sustainability (LfS) as conceived by Education Scotland and the General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS) spans all curricular areas and it is positioned as the responsibility of all - teachers, learners and educational leaders (Scottish Government 2016). Yet, such comprehensiveness has the potential to render the term and its purpose equivocal and perfunctory. Our experience working with teachers in this area suggests that the concept and term ‘Learning for Sustainability’ are not widely understood, leading teachers to raise questions about the relevance of LfS policy in relation to their everyday professional practice. Beginning from this position our paper explores the tension between the policy vision and the professional reality. We follow three lines of enquiry: first, we outline the existing policy architecture in Scotland; second, we examine the basic understanding of the terminology and conceptual understanding of LfS across Scotland through a recent study conducted by Kirk (2017); third, we review a professional learning programme we have developed and deployed across Scotland. We suggest four key areas for change that would support the enactment of LfS within Scottish schools and so realise some of the potential the LfS agenda affords - namely, high quality professional learning, motivated staff working with others, interdisciplinary learning tailored to the needs of the students, and leadership within a clear strategic framework. We conclude with a note of caution, that although there is evidence that LfS can have a positive impact on attainment, helping learners to strive towards ‘sustainable futures’ is too important to be reduced to the current narrow national focus on attainment outcomes.

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