EDUCATION FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT IN ONLINE LEARNING ENVIRONMENTS STUDENTS’ CONCEPTION OF ESD/SD AND DEVELOPMENT OF CRITICAL THINKING

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Abstract: Aim: The aim of this study is to examine students' beliefs about "education for sustainable development", "sustainable development" and development of critical thinking after experiencing online interactions with peers and teachers in an online programme focused on education for sustainable development (Education for Sustainable Development Master´s Programme at University of Gothenburg). Theory: Four concepts were introduced to bring together the theoretical framework; "education for sustainable development", "online learning environment", "adult learning" and "critical thinking".Method: The research was conducted with a qualitative methodological approach and data was collected via semi-structured interviews with 7 students. These interviews took place in an online environment (ZOOM meetings). Thematic analysis was applied on the collected data while findings were complemented by a literature survey.Results: It was found that the programme experience led to perceived changes in students’ understanding of sustainability between the start and finish of the programme The evidence was presented in the form of students’ understanding of the complexity of "sustainable development" and "education for sustainable development" also in its interdisciplinary and transnational context; understanding the system connectivity for example when relating the future of sustainable development to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Most students believed that they learned critical thinking, self-directed learning, to feel personal responsibility and to apply "glocal" approach when looking for solutions to sustainability problems. These new insights were mainly collected by reading the literature list and completing assignments. Unanticipated result of the research was the finding that human interaction in the ESD programme is extremely important for students learning experience. Student perceive that they would largely profit from having on-line meetings both with the tutors and peers that resemble face-to-face situation.

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