CASE STUDY 2: Australian Catholic University, Brisbane
Incorporating education for sustainability into pre-service teachers’ programs
This study was part of the first cycle of the Investigating Queensland Educating for Sustainability in Teacher Education (iQuEST) project to mainstream education for sustainability (EfS) into pre-service teacher education. The aims of the study were to:
- incorporate (EfS) into the first and second year Science and Technology units of a Bachelor of Education (BEd Primary) at the university
- audit unit outlines of the BEd (Primary) program for a sustainability focus
- encourage and support staff involved in core subjects of the pre-service teacher programs to incorporate sustainability into their subjects and to network with the Pro-Vice Chancellor and Dean of Education and other staff members.
At the time our group joined the iQuEST group, EfS had a very low profile at our university.
Identifying hubs and creating networks
The key players in our part of the project were students and staff involved in pre-service teacher education. The students were in the first and second years of a BEd (Primary) program and the staff were academic staff who were involved in primary and secondary pre-service teacher education.
Most significant change
The most significant change that has come about is the acknowledgement by students and staff at the university that EfS can be legitimately incorporated across all subject areas and not only in subjects that are directly concerned with the environment. Being associated with the IQuEST project allowed us to have a voice and leverage in areas that we could not have previously considered.
The aim of our group in the iQuest project was to showcase for student teachers and teacher education academics how EfS could easily be incorporated into pre-service teacher subjects and in the primary school curriculum. This was accomplished by three activities incorporated into the first and second year science and technology education subjects of the BEd (Primary).
The first activity demonstrated how students could be easily involved in sustainability of the natural environment. After a series of lectures and workshops on forest ecology, plant identification and weed ecology, pre-service teachers were required to work with local community bush regeneration groups. This had a double effect, it provided an opportunity for:
- community groups to engage with and influence the pre-service teachers
- pre-service teachers to engage with environmental professionals and volunteers in the field through a process of experiential learning.
This activity was highlighted in an article in the local press and was also placed on the university’s website.
The second activity demonstrated that EfS encompassed more than just looking after the natural environment. We incorporated a Sustainability Forum in the first year Science and Technology subject. This was a two-week activity where pre-service teachers selected, researched and presented information on a range of EfS topics and issues to their peers. As part of this activity pre-service teachers were required to give examples of how they could include their topic in each of the Key Learning Areas. The Forum thus gave the pre-service teachers a wider view of EfS and a number of ideas about how it could be incorporated into all subject areas in Primary schools.
The third activity was incorporated into the technology section of the second year Science and Technology education subject. Pre-service teachers were required to design, make and appraise a usable product that addressed sustainability of the environment. In this activity, which was part of the CSIRO CREST Award program, pre-service teachers demonstrated their awareness of sustainability of the environment through the products they designed, such as solar street-name lights and waste-water collectors and diverters.
Through this project we broadened our engagement within the teacher education system by building new connections with students in our subjects and with other academic staff in the education courses at the university. We have also made connections with Science education staff from other campuses and found that they are also passionately involved in EfS. Some staff at the university have now incorporated EfS into their teaching areas. We have also made connections with management of the university and raised the profile and importance of EfS through facilitating the signing of a Land for Wildlife agreement between the university and the local city council. Such activities demonstrate an increasing engagement with, and commitment to, EfS across the university.
Looking to the future
This project has enabled us to lay the foundation for incorporating EfS throughout all pre-service teacher education courses at the university. Through the project we networked with university staff and with the Dean of Education. Since the profile and relevance of EfS has been raised in our institution through the iQuest project, EfS will be incorporated in all subjects of the BEd (Primary) program at our campus. Our role will be to assist academic staff to achieve this with ease and passion. In this way, EfS will be mainstreamed within the teacher education program at the university.