Resourcing an Ethical Global Issues Pedagogy With Secondary Teachers in Northern Europe

Resourcing an Ethical Global Issues Pedagogy With Secondary Teachers in Northern Europe

Karen Pashby, Marta da Costa, Louise Sund, Su Lyn Corcoran
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-4402-0.ch003
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In this chapter, the authors report on a participatory research project with secondary school teachers in England, Finland, and Sweden that aimed to explore the possibilities for ethical global issues pedagogy in the classroom. The project had three integrated stages: 1) development and delivery of a workshop for teachers based on a synthesis of theoretical work in critical global citizenship education and environmental and sustainability education, and introducing Andreotti's (2012) HEADSUP tool; 2) classroom visits and reflective interviews with teachers where the workshop material was applied and adapted; and 3) drafting, reviewing, piloting, and publishing online a resource to support teacher practice. Findings show teachers are inspired and committed to engaging with deep ethical pedagogical approaches to global issues. However, in order to be able to take up critical approaches in the classroom, teachers require resources and spaces where they can engage with theory and research, reflect, experiment, and exchange information with other teachers.
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The launch of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015 marked a new period of international efforts in education for sustainable development (ESD). Building from Goal 4, quality education, Target 4.7 defines a clear agenda, stating that by 2030, all learners are to have acquired the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, including through education for sustainable development and global citizenship. According to UNESCO (2016, p. 288), target 4.7 “touches on the social, humanistic and moral purposes of education and their impact on policies, curricular content and teacher preparation” more than any other target, and captures “the transformative aspirations of the new development agenda” by explicitly linking education to other SDGs.

Unlike the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the SDGs are aimed at all signatory countries, which means countries in the ‘Global North’1 are being called on to actively promote change in their own contexts. This raises a question regarding the extent to which teachers in the north of Europe are resourced to meet this target. Research has found that efforts to promote global citizenship education (GCE) and ESD have been largely superficial (e.g. Andreotti, 2006; Huckle & Wals, 2015) and are informed by a neoliberal agenda that focuses on promoting individualism and competition (e.g. Jickling & Wals, 2008; Van Poeck & Vandenabeele, 2012). There have also been strong critiques of the ways that environmental education can reproduce Westerncentric colonial systems of power by disconnecting environmental issues from historical and political contexts (e.g. Blenkinsop et al., 2017; Matthews, 2011). Similarly, global learning initiatives including those supporting global citizenship seem to have largely taken soft approaches, stepping over complex and ethical issues, particularly those around power inequality and on-going colonial legacies (Andreotti, 2006; Shultz & Pillay, 2018). Consequently, scholarship indicates in many cases education about global issues has arguably served to perpetuate the reproduction of the global systems of power that have caused these problems in the first place (e.g. Andreotti, 2011; Pashby, 2018). Reflecting on the United Nations Decade for Education for Sustainable Development (UNDESD), Huckle & Wals (2015) argue for an approach to teaching and learning about sustainability as linked strongly to broader global learning goals. They maintain such an approach must be deeply theoretically grounded in order to move beyond tokenism and superficial approaches. Further, Wals (2015) argues for stronger attention in research and practice regarding the tendency for teachers to find tackling ethical issues uncomfortable and in support of “ethical” pedagogy that opens up spaces for ethical considerations and moral dilemmas (p. 16).

There is further evidence of support for a critical approach, this time on the part of young people. The International Youth White Paper on Global Citizenship (2017) was written by students (ages 14-18) from five continents with input from thousands of their colleagues. This included contributions from students in Sweden. Presented at the UNESCO Global Forum on Global Citizenship Education, it puts forward the recommendation that education addresses inequities by including marginalised voices and explicitly taking up unequal power relations and colonial history and oppression (see also Shultz et al., 2020). Given the scholarship calling for greater attention to how teaching about global issues is implicated in on-going colonial relations of power, we argue it is essential to take seriously a theoretically grounded approach to considering how teachers in ‘Global North’ contexts are resourced to facilitate this important work.

Key Terms in this Chapter

HEADSUP: Pedagogical tool designed by Vanessa Andreotti that aims to support a more complex and ethical analysis of representations of global issues. It centres seven problematic tendencies that contribute to the reproduction of unequal and harmful forms of relation, through the creation of an ‘us’ (in the ‘global north’) and a ‘them’ (in the ‘global south’): Hegemony, Ethnocentrism, Ahistoricisim, Depoliticisation, Salvationism, Uncomplicated solutions.

Colonial Matrix of Power: Concept developed by Aníbal Quijano to represent the geographical, political, and onto-epistemological extension of western domination, through four interrelated domains: economy, authority, gender/sexuality and knowledge.

Modernity/Coloniality: Dyad concept developed by Walter Mignolo that represents the onto-epistemological frame on which our present world is built. It comprises of modernity – a self-serving narrative of teleological and seamless progress, leading to ever more civilised and prosperous societies, that is based on universal principles and a dualist logic that separates subject and object, reason and emotion, human and nature; and coloniality – the violent systems of oppression on which modernity is built, e.g. slavery, colonialism, racism. As Walter Mignolo puts it, coloniality represents the dark side of modernity.

Sustainable Development Goals (SDG): Goals defined as part of the United Nation’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which set a commitment to eradicate world poverty through a strong emphasis on the promotion of economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable development. Of the 17 goals defined in the agenda 2030, goal 4 (inclusive and equitable quality education and lifelong learning opportunities for all) has particular relevance for this chapter, particularly target 4.7, which states by 2030, all learners should have acquired the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development. The target suggests that this can be achieved, among other forms, through education for sustainable development and global citizenship.

Education for Sustainable Development (ESD): Education field concerned with the preparation of education systems to face global challenges, and the promotion of a sustainable future. The field of ESD is a contested one, and practice often takes on different and opposing approaches. In this chapter, we adopt a critical approach that is informed by decolonial theory. Critical approaches in ESD are often associated with the term Environmental and Sustainability Education.

Global Citizenship Education (GCE): The meaning of global citizenship education is complex and contested, and the field encompasses a set of different, at times contradictory, practices. However, the term is largely understood to mean education about global issues (e.g. poverty, environment, health), with a focus on the relations between local and global contexts. This chapter takes a critical approach to GCE, that is informed by decolonial theory.

Decolonial Praxis: Reflexive world interventions that seek to target and dismantle the colonial matrix of power. Praxis requires a continuous learning/unlearning and critical examination of our thinking and actions, in order to avoid the reproduction of the very colonial systems it is trying to undo. It requires decentring western rationalities and centring other ways of knowing, being and relating.

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