Sustainability Education as Teacher Education: A Mixed Methods Study of a Place-based Learning Environment
AbstractIn January 2011 the Sustainability Education in an Environment of Diversity (SEEDs) module was implemented as a pilot in the Professional Development Program (PDP) of Simon Fraser University’s Faculty of Education. A teacher education module focused on environmental education (EE), SEEDs was similar in general purpose and structure to the other modules in the PDP in that it was designed to educate students to meet the general requirements for teacher certification. What made the SEEDs module unique was that it provided a range of place-based and outdoor field experiences and required teacher candidates to register for a place-based EE field course in Haida Gwaii. The general goal of the module was to develop educators who displayed the motivation and capacity to become key change agents in transforming education and society to progress towards a more sustainable future. From the beginning of SEEDs in January 2011 I was involved in the program. My roles in the SEEDs module were those of researcher, facilitator and instructor. These roles gave me an opportunity to document the implementation of the SEEDs module both quantitatively (with use of the Place-based Learning and Constructivist Environmental Survey) and qualitatively (through coding of SEEDs module teacher candidate assignments and evaluations, in addition to participant observation). The student reflections and commentaries do not speak of the influence of specific courses or requirements so much as they refer to the overall quality of the SEEDs module experience and its positive learning environment. Mentioned repeatedly as a high point learning experience was the Haida Gwaii field school during the middle semester of the professional year (Education 404). With regards to EE implementation, in most cases the teacher candidates appeared to have adopted a view of EE in schools as being realistically implemented through an infusion approach within the on-going curriculum combined with a commitment to experiential and place-based approaches to learning. Lastly, their responses suggest the power of modeling in a learning environment or experience: students appreciate learning about concepts and ideas, but they deeply appreciate seeing those ideas and concepts applied to their own professional learning experiences.