The Green Trust EETDP Curriculum and Learning Support Materials Development Project. Key role-players in this project are the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa, The Rhodes University Environmental Education and Sustainability Unit, the Environmental Justice Networking Forum and the Department of Environment Affairs and Tourism. Pictures: Some of the participants at an EETDP curriculum writing workshop held in June at Umgeni Valley in Howick. Do you want to participate in this project? Contribute to the curriculum planning and materials writing? Have access to the materials that we produce? Contact Jonathon Wigley at WESSA or Lausanne Olvitt at Rhodes University. Challenges in developing a curriculum and learning materials for Educators working in the field of Environment and Sustainability in conservation, agriculture, industry, local government and civil society contexts. 1. Introduction A team of EE Practitioners are working on this project to develop a curriculum framework and write learning materials for the National Certificate: Environmental Education, Training and Development Practice (level 5). The full EETDP qualification has been divided into 4 modules that are each able to stand alone as skills programmes and can be implemented over a year as a learnership. Four participatory workshops are being conducted over a year to allow a diversity of experienced EE practitioners to contribute to the conceptualisation of the learning programme and to contribute to the writing of learning support materials. 2. Key Challenges and Lessons Learnt 2.1 One qualification, many contexts One of the main challenges facing the materials writers is that environmental education is a broad, cross-cutting process that is being practiced in many different ways in different sectors. For example, EE practitioners working in a nature reserve are dealing with issues focused on biodiversity conservation such as education programmes around threatened species and habitats and so will have a strong focus on ecology, for example, in their education programmes. An EE practitioner working in a local government or industry context, however, will be more concerned with education programmes that deal with issues such as sustainable waste management strategies, land-use planning, service delivery and pollution control. EE Practitioners working in agricultural contexts will be running education programmes that look at sustainable farming practices such as ecological farming techniques, integrated pest management, soil management and so on. Materials that we are developing that allow for flexibility and responsiveness to these different contexts include: core texts that deal with both generic and sector specific environmental issues and risks, additional readings and case studies that the learner can draw on for their particular interests and needs, carefully designed work-place assignments that require the learner to take existing work experiences and commitments as a starting point and use the course to build on and deepen their understanding and ability to act 2.2 Aligning materials with unit standards The qualification we are working with is a registered national certificate at NQF level 5 and is an occupationally-directed (i.e. workplace based) and unit standards based qualification. Unit standards are the basic building blocks of a qualification and contain specific outcomes and assessment standards that state what a learner must be able to do and how they should be able to demonstrate this. Prior to working on the development of the curriculum and materials for the EETDP qualification, we conducted a detailed needs analysis that is now being used to inform the content and structure of the materials that we design. We have found it fairly challenging to respond to both the needs identified by employers and other role-players in the various sectors described above and remain faithful to the unit standards at the same time. Fortunately, many of the unit standards in this qualification have been purposefully designed as fairly open-ended thus leaving lots of space for interpretation and contextualisation. We have found that an iterative process of consulting the needs analysis and the suggestions of various experts involved with the writing and then consulting the unit standards and constantly aligning our writing to the unit standards has proved to be a useful way of keeping on track. Additional tools such as matrices of the unit standards and specific outcomes have also helped with this process. 2.3 Workplace based learning Although on the surface the idea of developing a course that is based in the workplace seems quite simple, we have found that if not very carefully thought out and constantly grappled with, we tend to resort to conventional institutionally based education that just happens to then be implemented in the workplace. Making the shift to drawing out the incidental learning that takes place in the course of work and strengthening and deepening this through carefully thought out and structured learning materials and activities is proving to be a difficult and important one. For example, there is a tension between providing pre-determined content in the course materials and supporting the learner to find and process information on their own depending on their particular work context and needs. We are finding that the shift to workplace based learning has implications for almost all the elements of the course including the curriculum structure, the learning support materials, timing and structure of delivery e.g. contact sessions, assignments, assessment methods and supporting workplace learning through mentoring and coaching. 2.4 Barriers to change The EETDP qualification is for education practitioners working towards environmental change in their workplace or community. One of the key challenges facing us as we develop this course is how to support EE practitioners to understand and then challenge barriers to change in their workplace or community. Our experience and insights gained from the literature is that often EE practitioners are able to develop and run good education and training programmes but that unless the barriers that prevent change towards more sustainable practice are known and dealt with, the practitioners soon become disillusioned as they recognise that their education efforts are not leading to meaningful change. This is an aspect that we are consciously focusing on as we develop the curriculum and materials for the EETDP qualification. 3. Orientation and theory underpinning the development of the curriculum and materials At a meeting of members of the Environmental Learning Forum, held in early 2005 to plan for the delivery of the Green Trust EETDP Curriculum and Learning Support Materials Development Project, it was decided that the curriculum should prioritise the following: a) Strengthen practice towards socio-ecological balance; b) Generate constructive critique of dominant discourses such as „sustainable development‟ and „sustainability‟; c) Create a balance between technical environmental management systems and broader social processes and; d) Support skills to access and critique information in rapidly changing work and community contexts. Some of the key concepts, methodologies and education theories that we are drawing on and that are shaping the work we are doing include: 3.1 Applied Competence This relates to the integration of thinking and doing and can be understood in terms of three inter- linked forms of competence: Foundational competence – demonstrated understanding of the knowledge/theory behind ones actions; Practical competence – demonstrated ability to perform certain tasks and; Reflexive competence – ability to connect what is known with what is done and so learn from ones actions and make adaptations for improvement or in response to unexpected events. 3.2 Contextually Situated Learning A clearer picture of the environmental crisis, environmental education processes and education in general can be developed if the history and broader social situations (context) within which these have developed are scrutinised. By exploring both historical changes (trends) and different approaches to environmental education (patterns) it is possible to develop clearer understandings of the bigger picture within which people work and of which they are part (RUEESU; 2005). However, together with this emphasis on locally relevant and situated learning it is important to recognise the importance of learners contextualising their learning within regional, national and international perspectives too. The EETDP curriculum thus seeks a balance between developing practitioners‟ competence to engage directly with their local context whilst understanding the influences and implications of wider national and global trends. 3.3 Praxis The idea of „praxis‟ arises from the understanding that theory (thinking) and practice (doing) are not two opposites, but are interwoven and inseparable aspects of people‟s work. The popular distinction between „academic‟ (theoretical) and „hands–on‟ (practical) is thus of limited value as every idea or theory is rooted in practice – and practice itself reflects underlying ideas or theories. In a discussion on the role of praxis in empowerment, Lotz (1999:33) refers to Paulo Friere‟s (1972) view of praxis as “… reflection and action upon the world in order to transform it”. This means that theory (reflection) and practice (action) have an interactive role to play in strengthening people‟s practice. Lotz (ibid.) notes the importance of theoretically orientated course processes in helping people to improve their practice. This she describes as taking the course into the „real world‟. 3.4 An Interdisciplinary and Holistic Approach Building on the understanding of environment as interactions between social, political, biophysical and economic dimensions, Lotz-Sisitka (2004) points out that responses to a deepening environmental crisis should also be diverse yet interacting. She explains that some processes to reduce vulnerability and risk “are social and educational in nature”, such as increasing participation of civil society groups, greater collaboration and the development of individual and institutional capacity to manage and bring about change. She cautions, however, that such social and educational processes should not be developed in isolation, but should be “… combined with other processes, such as policy development, infrastructure provision, good governance, compliance, adequate financial resources etc.” This perspective is central to the development of the EETDP Learnership curriculum which similarly acknowledges the importance of working across sectors and creating opportunities for learners to engage critically with the multiple (and complex) dimensions of the environmental concerns in their work context. 3.5 Critical and transformative engagement with environmental concerns Many international, regional and local environmental (education) programmes are characterised by a modernist paradox: the political, economic and social framings set up to address environmental issues and risks reflect the framings that give rise to or perpetuate those environmental issues and risks in the first place. Many education programmes (of which an EETDP Learnership curriculum in South Africa could easily become one example) uphold – or at least fail to critique – the underlying and complex causes of the current socio-ecological crisis. We argue here, therefore, that a curriculum to generate critical and transformative engagement with contemporary socio-ecological concerns (through education and training processes) is prerequisite to addressing issues of sustainability in South Africa. How this is achieved should remain a central concern for the EETDP Learnership curriculum and materials developers. Some guiding ideas include considering (in the appropriate contexts) the role of power, ideologies, societal structures and critique, and exploring the role of the educator as „an agent of change‟ (Janse van Rensburg & Lotz Sisitka, 2000). 3.6 Assessment as Learning The contextual, contested and emergent nature of environmental issues creates challenges for the assessment of learning outcomes as prescribed through a unit standards-based qualification. Lotz (1999: 35) explains that: … we recognise that environmental issues are not neutral, but of a socio-cultural and political nature and thus heavily value-laden. Environmental education cannot therefore be seen as simply the transmission of knowledge from one group to another, or as the simple ‘reflecting back’ of that knowledge through traditional examination or assessment methods. In developing the curriculum of this ETDP Learnership, it will be important to consider the role of assessment not just as a means to verify the attainment of credits within an outcomes-based course, but also as a process of learning. By grappling with and negotiating assessment criteria, learners are likely to engage more with the learning process, take more responsibility for assessment and hence produce better work (ibid.). 4. Conclusion This project will be completed in April 2006 with planning and writing workshops still to take place in November 2005 and February 2006. Anyone interested in participating, contributing or accessing the materials that we produce must please contact Jonathon or Lausanne by following the links provided at the top of this page. Diagram: Some of the elements of the EETDP qualification as implemented in the form of a learnership.
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