|The UN Decade for Education for Sustainable Development, which ended in 2014, has underlined the important role of all formal and informal education sectors in building a fairer and just future for all within environmental limits.
During adolescence, people develop interests, values and attitudes which will characterise them for the rest of their lives. As such, adolescents represent a very suitable target for promoting large-scale societal change. As the role of curriculum content and teachers’ practices in formal education has proved paramount in adolescents’ development, this study focuses on designing and testing an effective teaching methodology to promote sustainable development values.
The proposed teaching methodology targets high school science teaching in Italy and it is aimed at providing innovative, alternative and easily applicable methods for normal lessons. By combining psycho-pedagogical evidence with sustainability education practices, it frames the teaching of curriculum topics around current socio-environmental issues. In addition, it requires the adoption of inductive and participatory methods to enhance students’ participation, interest and understanding.
Pilot classes were run in the Italian high school and the outcomes were measured using standardise questionnaires. These have provided very promising results in the short-term in terms of 1) enhanced understanding of curriculum topics; 2) enhanced understanding of current issues; 3) willingness to know more or do something about current issues. Gathered Informal feedback also highlighted that such a methodology would be very appreciated by the large majority of students as it generates interest and it allows them to discuss real-world problems. In contrast, although they found it useful and productive, high school teachers in Italy seem reluctant to adopt the methodology for their own lessons. Lack of time, inexperience and conviction in deductive approaches are the most common reasons. Indeed, teachers’ beliefs and established practices would represent a strong internal barrier for the large-scale implementation of the methodology tested. Therefore, further study should not only focus on confirming the promising results in the long-term but also explore effective ways to overcome potential barriers.