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Learning and behavior change for sustainable development through experiental learning approach

Conference contribution
Authors Beatrix Algurén
Published in Högskolepedagogisk konferens i Göteborg, 24 oktober 2019,
Publication year 2019
Published at Department of Food and Nutrition, and Sport Science
Language en
Subject categories Public health science, Public Health, Global Health, Social Medicine and Epidemiology, Educational Sciences, Pedagogical Work, Learning


Background: Sustainable development and transformational change have become more critical than ever. Higher education for sustainable development (ESD) aims to achieve that students not only understand sustainability problems but find solutions for them. Deep learning is particularly relevant for ESD. A set of eight key competencies as learning objectives and goals for ESD was suggested by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO): a) Systems thinking competency, b) Anticipatory competency, c) Normative competency, d) Strategic competency, e) Collaboration competency, f) Critical thinking competency, g) Self-awareness competency, h) Integrated problem-solving competency. Highly valuated education and learning concepts for education for sustainable development (ESD) are active and experiential learning approaches (ELA) since they empower individuals for critical self-reflection in the societal context leading to reflective and responsible actions. Objective: The aim of the present study is to increase knowledge on experiental learning activity (ELA) for ESD and its impact on students deep learning with focus on a) changing perspective and understanding, and b) changing human behavior within the context of a health promotion programme. Material and Methods: Beside describing the ELA task that is a two-week long individual improvement project (IP), improvement as defined to be a changed behavior to a more sustainable lifestyle, we analyzed 39 student reports by the means of thematic content-analysis. Results: Four main areas of behavior change for SD were identified: increased physical activity (connected to less car driving) for better well-being, saving resources (e.g. recycling or less consumptions), sustainable food (e.g. ecological products or less meat consumption) and less screen time for better well-being. Conclusion: The described ELA in form of an individual IP had impact on students’ understanding and insight and contributed to develop each of the eight competencies for SD. Almost all students expressed their plans for the future to continue somehow with their tested “new” behavior. Their reflections showed distinctly novel insight and understanding not only on SD but also on their individual behavior in relation to SD, and on making behavior change happens. In comparison to other ESD research, the presented ELA stimulated especially the development of the self-awareness competency in the system and the action to change in reality.

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