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New perspectives on research in environmental and sustainability education


Emery, S, New perspectives on research in environmental and sustainability education, Proceedings of the 8th World Environmental Education Congress, 29 June - 2 July 2015, Gothenburg, Sweden, pp. 338. (2015) [Non Refereed Conference Paper]


Introduction: Children’s wellbeing is identified as one of the central goals of education and is addressed in numerous ways within international curriculum frameworks and teaching and school leadership standards. Connections are emerging between children’s wellbeing and global sustainability, and an area ripe for exploring in sustainability education research surrounds the cultural dimensions of wellbeing. Cultural wellbeing is appearing in educational policy in numerous countries, but there is little empirical research or educational theory specifically addressing this area.

What is cultural wellbeing and how is it relevant in education? What could cultural wellbeing look like within a classroom community? These questions form both the challenge and the inquiry of a study of cultural wellbeing being conducted with teachers and students in school classroom communities in the Australian state of Tasmania.

Objectives: The objective of this presentation is to share early findings emerging from a grounded theory study of cultural wellbeing which extends insights into this new area. Key themes will be shared from a literature review of cultural wellbeing conducted across reference disciplines of health, education and international development to explore fertile areas in which sustainability education research can contribute to children’s wellbeing.

Methods: The research study employs constructivist grounded theory conducted through case studies in schools involving participant observation and interviews with teachers. The literature review and early analysis of interviews conducted with teachers will be shared in this presentation.

Results: This research is currently in its data gathering phase, however early indications from the comparative analysis of initial data with wellbeing literature suggests three key themes relate to cultural wellbeing.

Connections and relationships

Connections and respectful relationships are central to creating ‘safe space’ which provides the conditions for cultural wellbeing to emerge. Numerous studies have found cultural wellbeing is discussed as a function of connections to people and community, and country and land particularly in research with indigenous peoples.

Social participation

Participation takes many forms and aspects noted in relation to cultural wellbeing include democratic processes, participation in symbolic exchange and social practices that facilitate relationship-building.

Identity formation

The formation of cultural identity is linked to wellbeing. Strengthening cultural identity has been indicated as a protective factor for Aboriginal people, and studies have found that positive cultural identity developed through sharing stories and participation in the arts.

Conclusion: Teachers have much to contribute to our understandings of children's cultural wellbeing. This presentation will provide some early insights into this emergent area of sustainability research which stands to extend understandings of how children’s wellbeing can be supported in education.

Item Details

Item Type:Non Refereed Conference Paper
Keywords:culture, identity, relationships, student voice, well being, cultural wellbeing, sustainability, identity formation, experiential learning
Research Division:Education
Research Group:Specialist studies in education
Research Field:Specialist studies in education not elsewhere classified
Objective Division:Education and Training
Objective Group:Learner and learning
Objective Field:Learner and learning not elsewhere classified
UTAS Author:Emery, S (Dr Sherridan Emery)
ID Code:110573
Year Published:2015
Deposited By:Curriculum and Academic Development
Deposited On:2016-08-02
Last Modified:2016-08-02

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