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Promoting education for sustainable development in the early years: an action research project

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posted on 2023-08-30, 17:39 authored by Opeyemi E. Osadiya
In response to growing global awareness of the importance of sustainability for young children’s lives and learning, this study explores how teaching can be shaped to promote better knowledge and practice of education for sustainable development (ESD) in an early years setting in England. The study is grounded in review of existing research and policy on ESD in early childhood education and care, particularly in the light of uncertainties faced by practitioners about how much emphasis to place on ESD within a curriculum that is silent on sustainability. Practitioners, and children aged 2-4 years, in an Essex day nursery participated in three phases of collaborative action research by engaging in various co-designed projects, as a means of co-constructing understandings of sustainability. Vygotskian socio-cultural theory, funds of knowledge from Moll et al. and Noddings’ ethics of care are brought together to provide theoretical framing for the study. Data collection methods included: a ‘pedagogy of listening’; practitioner interviews; observations; documentation and practitioner reflections. Evidence from these sources was analysed thematically at the end of each phase, with findings forming the basis of shared reflections for the next phase. Final cross-phase analysis of findings led to identification of overall key themes from the research. These show that teaching and learning for sustainability within an early years setting is fostered through integrated approaches to play where participants’ interests are acknowledged. Participants’ knowledge and practices of sustainability grew as they increasingly recognised and valued the importance of collaborative learning within an ethics of care. Practitioners gained knowledge of new ways of working on topics related to sustainability. Based on these outcomes, the study makes four contributions: it provides insights for new ways of working with children on sustainability issues; it explores approaches that provide strong structures to develop ESD within the curriculum; it proposes a methodology that positions practitioners as co-researchers; and strengthens the notion of care in teaching and learning for sustainability in the early years.



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