Using Community Projects to Teach Sustainability Theory: An Advanced HBSE Course
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Using Community Projects to Teach Sustainability Theory: An Advanced HBSE Course. Eileen M. Brennan, John Dean Ossowski, and Jessie Camille Kadolph Annual Program Meeting Council on Social Work Education October 16, 2010.

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Using Community Projects to Teach Sustainability Theory: An Advanced HBSE Course

Eileen M. Brennan, John Dean Ossowski,

and Jessie Camille Kadolph

Annual Program Meeting

Council on Social Work Education

October 16, 2010


This presentation was supported by a grant from the James F. and Marion L. Miller Foundation through the Center for Sustainable Processes and Practices,

Portland State University, Portland, Oregon, USA

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Objectives - Participants will be able to: and Marion L. Miller Foundation through the Center for Sustainable Processes and Practices,

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Discuss the three aspects of sustainability theory: economic, environmental and social; and apply each component to social work practice at the micro, mezzo, and macro levels.

Identify key components of a model curriculum for an advanced HBSE course that focuses on sustainability.

Use community-based learning projects to help students apply abstract HBSE theory to practice situations and to generate excitement through a transformative learning approach.


Sustainability Defined and Marion L. Miller Foundation through the Center for Sustainable Processes and Practices,

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  • Definitions are wide ranging and varied.

  • Common themes:

    • A long-term, intergenerational focus

      • Example: “…meet[ing] the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” (World Commission on Environment and Development, 1987)


Sustainability Defined and Marion L. Miller Foundation through the Center for Sustainable Processes and Practices, (continued)

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  • Common themes:

  • Connection between collective human behavior and environmental impacts:

    • Example:“[Four dimensions of sustainability] all of which are conditions that must be attained to ensure the continuation of all life on the planet [are]: human survival, biodiversity, equity, and life quality. These dimensions are interconnected and imply that sustainability means living in harmony with fellow humankind, bird, beast, air, land, sky, and sea.” (Mary, 2008, 33)


Models of Sustainability and Marion L. Miller Foundation through the Center for Sustainable Processes and Practices,

Environment

Environment

Society

Economy

  • Three Pillars

    • Economic, Environmental, Social

  • Two Common Models:

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Society and the Environment: A Two-Way Street and Marion L. Miller Foundation through the Center for Sustainable Processes and Practices,

Mitigation

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A Two-Way Street: Society and the Environment and Marion L. Miller Foundation through the Center for Sustainable Processes and Practices,

Adaptation

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Highlighting the Importance of the Social Dimension: Our Ecological Crisis as Symptomatic of a Social Problem

CONSUMERISM – Industrialized economy needed to support the consumption demands. Provides means to procure and process materials from natural world.

ALIENATION – Values individual achievement above all else. Inordinate resources to maintain lifestyles (i.e. everyone must own the best car they can afford). Everyone competes for everything.

POLLUTION and ENVIRONMENTAL DEGREDATION – Economic activity produce pollution and deplete natural resources faster than they can be replenished.

Based in part on a model proposed by Stephen McKenzie in McKenzie, S. (2004).

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Highlighting the Importance of the Social Dimension: Towards a Culture-Shift as a Solution

COHESION –Values a long term perspective in terms of economic growth to support human health and well-being. Competition exists within limits.

CONSUMPTION – Growth is planned with needs of future generations in mind. Materials extracted in ways that promote long-term human health. Respect eco-systems and natural limits.

ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY – Waste is carefully managed so the future can meet needs and are equally distributed among society. Resources consumed with nature’s ability to replenish them.

Based in part on a model proposed by Stephen McKenzie in McKenzie, S. (2004).

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How can social workers help? a Culture-Shift as a Solution

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  • Social workers are professionals who work to promote human health and well-being on micro, mezzo and macro levels of practice.


Expanding Our Thinking: A Conceptual Shift a Culture-Shift as a Solution

Traditional Area

Of Focus


Illustrating the Conceptual Shift: In a Sustainability Framework

Inter-relationship

Expanded area of focus

Inter-relationship



Education for Sustainability in Social Work Framework

Using a Transformative Learning Approach

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Supportive Educational Environment Framework

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  • Portland State University

    • Houses the Center for Sustainable Processes and Practices.

    • Received a $25 million grant from the Miller Foundation to move sustainability ahead.

    • Offers a Graduate Certificate Program in Sustainability.

  • School of Social Work

    • Faculty members were given a grant to team with other departments to form a Social Sustainability Network with PSU faculty, students, and community members.

    • Emphasizes community-based learning.


Sustainability at PSU Framework

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  • “Sustainability is often thought of as comprised of three overlapping goals:

    • (a) to live in a way that is environmentally sustainable or viable over the long term;

    • (b) to live in a way that is economically sustainable, maintaining living standards over the long term; and

    • (c) to live in a way that is socially sustainable, now and in the future”

      (Dillard, Dujon, & King, 2009, p. 2)


Challenging Course Content Framework

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  • Introduction to climate change and environmental challenges—relation to micro, mezzo, and macro levels of practice.

  • Environmental, economic, and social justice for individuals, groups, and communities.

  • Sustainable development and SW.

  • International and global context.

  • Sustainability and groups at risk.

  • Working toward sustainability at the community level.

  • Creating empowering partnerships.

  • Sustainability and SW ethics.

  • Revisiting sustainability and social work—theory and practice.


Emphasized an Ecocentric Perspective Framework

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  • Encouraged students to develop a view of the earth in which humans are one species in a planet that is enveloped by a complex web of life, rather than dominated by people and their technology (Capra, 1996, 2002).

  • Sought to help them end their alienation from the natural environment (Jones, 2010).

  • Fostered a re-indigenization of individuals by connecting them to place (Coates, Gray & Heatherington, 2006; Hall, 2010).


Engaging Students Framework

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  • Three major concerns in designing the course:

    • How to make the abstract conceptual frameworks of sustainability come alive for the students in this advanced HBSE course.

    • How to get students to deeply examine their beliefs about their place in the natural world, their own environmental behavior, and their approaches to practice.

    • How to discuss the challenges of mitigating and adapting to climate change without overwhelming them with its enormity and immediacy (Hartmann, 2004; Weil, 2009).


Transformative Learning Framework

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  • “Transformative learning is learning that transforms problematic frames of reference—sets of fixed assumptions and expectations (habits of mind, meaning perspectives, mindsets)—to make them more inclusive, discriminating, open, reflective, and emotionally able to change” (Mezirow, 2003, p. 58)

  • The course was designed to have students engage with the sustainability framework through dialog, personal reflection, and social action—particularly appropriate for social work education (Jones, 2009; Kitchenham, 2008).


Phases of Transformative Learning Framework

  • Disorienting dilemma.

  • Self-examination with feelings of guilt or shame.

  • Critical assessment of assumptions.

  • Recognition that the process of transformation is shared with others.

  • Exploration of options--new roles, relationships, actions.

  • Planning of a course of action.

  • Acquisition of knowledge and skills for implementing one’s plan.

  • Provisional trying of new roles.

  • Building of competence and self confidence in new roles.

  • Reintegration into one’s life with a new perspective.

  • Renegotiating relationships.

(Mezirow, 1991)

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Enacting Transformation - Reflection Framework

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  • Head-on discussions of climate change presented a “disorienting dilemma” for class participants.

  • Lively discussions of environmental justice and globalization evoked strong feelings—as class members realized those who had small carbon footprints were experiencing some of the gravest consequences.

  • Basic assumptions regarding American exceptionality and modernity were discussed.

  • First assignment was to write a paper on a personal definition of sustainability, which was then applied to a group at risk.


Enacting Transformation - Social Action Framework

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  • Students were asked to form groups to design and carry out projects that would promote sustainability.

  • Often involved discussions in depth of course concepts and community conditions, and required them to acquire new skills (such as social marketing).

  • Also resulted in trying out new roles as promoters of sustainable thinking and actions.


Enacting Transformation - Reintegration Framework

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  • Students kept personal journals that recorded their experiences in the groups and reactions to readings.

  • Final assignments involved sharing their work with other students, faculty and community members through posters presented in a Sustainability Fair at the end of the term.

  • Synthesized work in a final paper that included self-reflections on the ways the community-based projects were applications of sustainability theory.


Why sustainability in social work why me
Why Sustainability in Social Work? Why Me? Framework

  • Worked in Central Appalachia repairing homes with families experiencing poverty

  • Saw environmental and economic impacts, but less aware of social aspects

  • Course tied personal experiences with academic perspectives on topic

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Supply Exchange: Sustainability Promotion Framework

Started an exchange of usable school supplies for the School of Social Work.

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Green Cleaning - Sustainability Promotion Framework

Held sessions teaching social workers how to make non-toxic cleaning substances

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Personal outcomes of course
Personal Outcomes of Course Framework

“Social Work and Sustainability:A Narrative Approach to Social, Economic and Environmental Issues in the Profession”

Participant Quote from a worker in the field of child welfare: “…I haven’t had a lot of training in this (physical environment in social work)”.

“Integrating Environmental Elements into Social Work Education”

Participant Quote: “I believe without a greater knowledge of the world environmental issues, we miss an an opportunity to improve the quality of life holistically”.

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Class Outcomes Framework

New skills such as social marketing, partnering with community organizations and behaviors that promote sustainability.

Additional knowledge about the current environmental crisis, globalization, sustainability theory and the relation to social work.

  • “In order to transition to a sustainable future, we must concern ourselves with what leads individuals to engage in behavior that collectively is sustainable, and design our programs accordingly. Then, the transition must be shaped well in such a manner that in the end, communities will be able to pass down the values to the next generation with ease.” (Naanyane, 2009, final paper).

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- Change to education in classroom and in Continuing Education- Change in practice - New area of academicians and researchers- Encourages interdisciplinary work- Gives more well-rounded perspective- Views external factors as well- Examines people in their own environment

Outcomes for Outside of Class

(Insert a picture here - I just haven’t found an appropriate one yet.)

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Participant Quote: “I don’t think it is a lack of wanting to help; I think it is a lack of knowledge of the subject…”

N=200


References wanting to help; I think it is a lack of knowledge of the subject…”

Bell, J., Cohen, L., & Malekafzali, S. (2010).  The transportation prescription: Bold new ideas for healthy, equitable transportation reform in America.  Oakland: PolicyLink.  Accessed on March, 15, 2010 from: http://www.policylink.org/atf/cf/%7B97C6D565-BB43-406D-A6D5-ECA3BBF35AF0%7D/transportationRX_final.pdf

Capra, F. (1996). The web of life. New York: Doubleday.

Capra, F. (2002). The hidden connections: Integrating the biological, cognitive, and social dimensions of life into a science of sustainability. New York: Random House.

Coates, Gray & Heatherington (2006). An “ecospiritual” perspective: Finally a place for indigenous approaches. British Journal of Social Work, 36 (3), 381-399.

Dillard, J., Dujon, V. & King, M.C. (2009). Introduction. In J. Dillard, V. Dujon, & M.C King (Eds.) Understanding the social dimension of sustainability (pp. 2-12). New York: Routledge.

Hall, D. E. (2010). A call home: Rediscovering ourselves through re- indigenization. Manuscript submitted for publication. Department of Psychology, Portland State University, Portland, OR.


References wanting to help; I think it is a lack of knowledge of the subject…”

Hartmann, T. (2004). The last hours of ancient sunlight: The fate of the world and what we can do before it’s too late. New York: Three Rivers Press.

Hawke, Stephen (2004). Social sustainability: Towards some definitions. Hawke Research Institute Working Paper Series, 27, 1 – 29.

Jones (2010). Responding to the ecological crisis: Transformative pathways for social work education. Journal of Social work Education, 46 (1), 67-84.

Kitchenham, A. (2008). The evolution of John Mezirow’s transformative learning theory. Journal of Transformative Education, 6 (2), 104-123.

  • Mary, N. (2008). Social work in a sustainable world. Chicago: Lyceum Books.

  • Mezirow, J. (2003). Transformative learning as discourse. Journal of Transformative Education, 1 (1), 58-63.

  • Weil, Z. (2009). Most good, least harm: A simple principle for a better world and meaningful life. New York: Simon & Schuster.


Questions? wanting to help; I think it is a lack of knowledge of the subject…”


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