UCL - Teaching climate change and sustainability

7 1.2 Research context 1.2.1 Climate change education and sustainability education Climate change education and sustainability education aim to generate understanding of the wide-ranging, interconnected, environmental and social issues that define our time, and support people’s capabilities for acting in response to those issues. They can be understood as broad, pluralistic approaches to education. Climate change education is described in the research literature as a range of approaches that differ between countries and contexts, between schools and across disciplines. However, in a systematic review of 49 studies that considered the efficacy of climate change education programmes, Monroe et al. (2019) found that most programmes focused on improving students’ knowledge about climate change through formal education. Their synthesis identified two overarching strategies for increasing the efficacy of climate change education programmes: (1) a focus on personally relevant and meaningful climate change information and, (2) use of student-centred, active, and engaging teaching methods. Rousell and CutterMackenzie-Knowles (2020) identified a similarly strong emphasis on scientific knowledge in their systematic review of 220 research papers published between 1993 and 2014. They found that nearly half of the studies specifically referred to increasing scientific knowledge as the primary framing, and that school-based science education was the dominant context. Yet, there is a need to move beyond an over-emphasis on learning the science of climate change not least because this focus does not necessarily translate into pro-environmental attitudes and behaviours (e.g., Brownlee et al., 2013). These reviews, alongside other research, emphasise the need for holistic, participatory, and creative approaches to climate change education that foreground concerns for justice and advocacy for the environment and that draws on multiple disciplines. Sustainability education can be understood as education that supports citizens of today to live in ways that do not cause environmental harm, rather to live environmentally restorative lives that maximise opportunities for life on a healthy planet now and in the future. Like climate change education, sustainability education is understood and enacted variously. It can be construed as transformative, by seeking to challenge the unsustainable structures and values that govern institutions and individuals (e.g., Lotz-Sisitka et al., 2015). Often, it is framed in terms of whole-school approaches (e.g., Wals & Mathie, 2022) that involve actions across a range of dimensions such as: • governance and leadership which can include vision statements, policies and strategies that communicate and actively support sustainability across the school;