Ongoing projects

Transactional investigations of learning in view of sustainability transitions – LESTRA 

This project’s key question is how can learning fruitfully contribute to Sustainability Transitions (ST). Its objectives are 1) to develop a new analytical and conceptual framework for investigating the connections between learning processes, the transformation of habits and customs, and (potential) STs; 2) to identify the key conditions for learning to contribute to STs; and 3) to develop a roadmap for future research in diverse settings and contexts. LESTRA aims to connect the process and outcomes of micro learning processes to the emergence of macro societal transitions. Transactional pragmatism provides valuable inspiration to investigate the learning that takes shape in response to sustainability problems that are increasingly disturbing our habitual ways of acting. It will be used to develop a novel analytical and conceptual framework by building on earlier work in environmental and sustainability education research, didactics and sustainability transition studies. The newly developed analytical toolbox will be applied to empirical data collected in three case studies where we identify key patterns of how learning through engagement with sustainability problems results in the consolidation, enrichment or (trans)formation of habits and customs, assess and categorise the outcomes of learning episodes in terms of their potential to contribute to STs, and analyse (changes in) the socio-technical systems in the three cases in order to identify and describe potential STs in-the-making. Synthesis should result in successfully tracing the connections between the learning process, outcomes of learning and (potential) STs. Building upon this, we will develop hypotheses and a research agenda as a roadmap for future research.

More information on the project website, Ghent University 

Researchers: Katrien Van Poeck (Principal Investigator, Ghent University), Frederik De Roeck (postdoc, Ghent University), Leif Östman (advisory board, Uppsala University), Chris Shilling (advisory board, Kent University), Jim Garrison (advisory board, Virginia Tech University)

Funder and duration: European Research Council, 2021-2026

Science education for action and engagement towards sustainability – SEAS

Technological, socio-economical, and environmental changes are rapidly transforming and posing new challenges to our societies. What scientific knowledge, literacies, and skills do students and citizens need to address these challenges? Through SEAS, we will develop tools and methods that facilitate collaboration between schools and local communities facing sustainability challenges through what we call “open schooling”. Open schooling involves schools cooperating with other institutions and organisations to achieve community well-being and changes the way science comes into the classroom and how the science-classroom makes a difference in the world. In SEAS, this entails creating collaboration tools and methods where teachers and students can work together with out-of-school partners on solving sustainability and social justice challenges in their local communities. The overall aims of SEAS are (1) identifying core principles and best practices required for creating and sustaining open schooling collaborations, and (2) promoting scientific literacies and skills necessary to engage in addressing real-life, complex sustainability challenges. To achieve these goals, SEAS will coordinate and investigate collaboration among six open schooling networks in Austria, Belgium, Estonia, Italy, Norway, and Sweden.

More information on the project website, Oslo University

Researchers: Erik Knain (coordinator, Oslo University), Stefan Bengtsson (Uppsala University), Nordin Bigaré (Ghent University), Katrien Van Poeck (Ghent University) and others.

Funder and duration: European Commission H2020-SwafS, 2019-2022

Open schooling for sustainable cities and communities 

This project investigates how teaching and learning in practices of 'open schooling' can contribute to creating more sustainable cities and communities. The pursuit of sustainable development is the subject of growing global attention. To realise this a lot of hopes are pinned on learning and education. Yet, despite omnipresent references to the importance of it the notion of learning and its role in relation to sustainability transitions is poorly conceptualised and empirical research is very rare. This project addresses this research gap by studying teaching and learning practices that address sustainability problems in local communities. We investigate well-selected cases of ‘open schooling’, i.e. education practices in schools and universities that have the explicit ambition to fruitfully connect teaching and learning to identifying, exploring and tackling key sustainability problems in urban and rural communities in collaboration with local stakeholders. Drawing on insights from sustainability transition studies, pragmatist educational theory and didactic research we develop a conceptual and analytical framework and apply it to case studies in Sweden and Belgium. The created knowledge is translated into didactic models and guidelines for curriculum development and course didactics as well as scripts for in-service and pre-service training of practitioners.

Researchers: Leif Östman (main applicant, Uppsala University), Eva Lundqvist (Uppsala University), Katrien Van Poeck (Ghent University & Uppsala University), Malena Lidar (Uppsala University), Stefan Bengtsson (Uppsala University).

Funder and duration: FORMAS, 2019-2022

Manners of teaching about controversial sustainability issues and students learning 

The first purpose of the project is to analyse the institutional dimension of teaching, i.e. to identify different manners of teaching dealing with controversial sustainability issues. The second purpose is to analyse the learning—both the process and the content—within the identified manners of teaching. The third purpose is to analyse teachers’ reflections, judgements and experiences teaching controversial sustainability issues.

The project has been designed as follows: to identify general teaching traditions –manners of teaching regarding controversial sustainability issues that many teachers use –within subjects and to analyse a) the pros and cons of each of the traditions regarding learning and b) teachers' didactical reflections on the teaching of controversial sustainable issues. This design has been chosen because we want to avoid that the knowledge created becomes anecdotal and the power of generalisation is missed.

We will conduct a national survey in order to identify manners of teaching of controversial sustainable issues in the subjects of biology, geography, civic education, and religion in lower secondary education. Out of the results from the survey we will select teachers to be studied through interviews and video-recordings.

This project's focus ​​is directly in line with the considerable amount of attention on sustainable development at the international as well as national policy level (Agenda 2030 and Global Action Programme on ESD).

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Researchers: Leif Östman (main applicant, Uppsala University), Stefan Bengtsson (Uppsala University), Petra Hansson (Uppsala University), Michael Håkansson (Stockholm University), Katrien Van Poeck (Ghent University & Uppsala University), Chris Shilling (Kent University), Carl Anders Säfström (Maynooth University).

Funder and duration: Swedish Research Council, 2018-2022

Teaching and learning for action competence in education about antibiotic resistance

The purpose of this project is to gain knowledge about teaching and learning at secondary and upper secondary school about antibiotic resistance. Antibiotic resistance is emerging as a health threat both locally and globally and as such, a significant sustainability challenge. Antibiotic resistance is a complex, multi-sectoral challenge, with medical as well as sociological and economical components. To handle issues of such high level of complexity, education is of vital importance. The goal of the project is that students through education will be offered to learn the competence to act responsible and preventive and when necessary, use antibiotics wisely. The project is carried out through collaboration between researchers and five biology teachers in secondary and upper secondary school. Teaching is planned, performed, analysed and modified in cycles to develop relevant and functional teaching sequences. Taking departure in results from constructivist and sociocultural research on learning we analyse the interplay between students’ earlier experiences and the encounters they have with the environment and thereby identify problematic situations that students face when they encounter the content of antibiotic resistance education. The project is linked to the work done at Uppsala Antibiotic Center.

More information at Skolforskningsinstitutet (in Swedish only)

Researchers: Eva Lundqvist (main applicant) Cecilia Eriksson (PhD student), Malena Lidar (researcher), Leif Östman (researcher) Ulrike Wörman (teacher at Valsätraskolan), Catharina Bergström (teacher at Palmbladsskolan), Malin Hjertson (teacher at Fyrisskolan), Sofie Mellberg och Ida Solum (teachers at Rosendalsgymnasiet)

Funder and duration: Swedish Institute for Educational Research, 2019-2021

PhD project: Higher education and sustainability. On discourse, roles and figures. (working title)

This ongoing doctoral study discusses the phenomenon of sustainability in higher education from a number of angles. Its general aim is to facilitate discussions about the actual, possible and desirable relation between higher education and sustainability by offering a number of tools (map, typology, vocabulary…)  to foster an open, democratic, and critical debate on the subject.

By drawing on a number theoretical and methodological frameworks (the multi-level perspective on sustainability transitions, Laclau & Mouffe’s strand of discourse theory, topic modelling…), different conceptualizations of “sustainable higher education” and their educational and didactical implications are studied.

Researchers: Maarten Deleye (PhD student, Uppsala university), Leif Östman (supervisor, Uppsala University), Katrien van Poeck (co-supervisor, Ghent University) 

Funder and duration: PhD at Uppsala University, start: August 2018.

PhD project: Practical thinking while learning to program – novices’ in the computer lab (working title)

This project investigates the process of learning to program. Central is novice students learning hands-on — writing code — in the computer lab. The methodology is mixed methods using both a controlled study and surveys as well as interviews, observations, and video recordings in a naturalistic classroom setting.  With the help of pragmatic theory (as described by Dewey and the later Wittgenstein), students’ learning processes can be understood as ‘come to agreement’ and habitual actions when doing programming as ‘practical thinking’. Emotional experiences in the learning situation are connected to learning hands-on and seem to play a role in long-term learning. Insights in this area can improve programming education and hopefully shed some light on other areas in computer science as well as being useful in understanding other lab-dependent subjects. 

Researchers: Kristina von Hausswolff (PhD student, Uppsala University), Anna Eckerdal (supervisor, Uppsala University), Maria Weurlander (co-supervisor, Stockholm University)

Funder and duration: The Swedish Research Council, grant 2015-01920 and Ph.D. at Uppsala University.
Duration: 2016 – 2021

Completed projects

University education as a driver for sustainability transitions 

UNI4ST creates empirically grounded knowledge on how university education can be designed and performed in such a way that it becomes a fruitful driver for Sustainability Transitions (STs). Drawing on pragmatist educational scholarship and the multi-level perspective on STs, we develop a tailored analytical toolbox for empirical investigations that can offer guidance for the improvement of teaching and learning practices. These analytical tools are then applied to case studies of university education practices where academics, students and societal stakeholders jointly address real-life sustainability challenges in order to reveal what and how university students and societal stakeholders learn from joint engagement in striving for STs. Beyond assessing the effectiveness of pedagogical efforts in terms of desirable learning outcomes, UNI4ST focuses on the educational process, i.e. on how knowledge, skills, values, habits, worldviews, etc. come about and transform through concrete practices and how this is related to potential societal transformation. The aim is to reveal how the design and performance of teaching and learning practices produce outcomes that promote STs and how educators can influence this. 

Researchers: Katrien Van Poeck (applicant, Uppsala University), Leif Östman (supervisor, Uppsala University) 

Funder and duration: Marie Skłodowska-Curie Individual Fellowship, 2020-2021

Climate change in higher education

Teachers in higher education express the need for support to adequately address sustainability issues such as climate change in education practice. This research and development project contributes to capacity building by developing an empirical knowledge base as well as instruments for the dissemination thereof. We addressed the following research questions: 1. What characterises education on climate change in Flemish universities and university colleges?; 2. What are adequate teaching and learning practices on the issue of climate change?; 3. What are vital conditions for adequately addressing climate change in higher education? With research question 1 we aimed to map the diversity of education practices, providing a broad view on the topic, by means of a targeted survey of teachers. Research questions 2 and 3 aimed at a qualitative, in-depth study of climate education practices. This required qualitative analyses of concrete practices and has been conducted by means of 15 case studies. In collaboration with end users we create an inspiration guide (in Dutch) that lays the basis for further capacity building on teaching about climate change in higher education.

More information on the project website, Ghent University

Researchers: Katrien Van Poeck (coordinator, Ghent University), Ellen Vandenplas (Ghent University), Leif Östman (Uppsala University), Thomas Block (Ghent University), Brent Bleys (Ghent University).

Funder and duration: Flemish government, 2019-2021

Wicked problems and educative spaces for urban sustainability Transition

This project aims to explore theoretically and empirically how political spaces of urban sustainability transition experiments (UST) may function as educative spaces. It has two objectives: to advance knowledge on how new political spaces of USTs can function as creative educative spaces in view of exploring and creating new possibilities for a more sustainable future; and to strengthen the theoretical and empirical basis for further capacity development and innovation regarding how to design democratic educative spaces in view of governing USTs. The project elaborates interdisciplinary theory combining insights and frameworks from sustainability transition studies, political theory on new arrangements of governance, and pragmatist educational theory. Methodologically, it combines practical epistemology analysis (PEA) and dramaturgical analysis. Empirical case studies are conducted in Belgium and Sweden.

Researchers: David O. Kronlid (main applicant, Uppsala University), Katrien Van Poeck (Ghent University), Leif Östman (Uppsala University), Thomas Block (Ghent University), Michiel Dehaene (Ghent University)

Funder and duration: FORMAS, 2017-2020

Graduate School in Didactic Modelling and Analysis for Science Teachers 

Researchers: Per-Olov Wickman (main applicant, Stockholm University), Leif Östman (Uppsala University) 

Funder and duration: Swedish Research Council, 2014-2017

Teaching and Learning Practical Embodied Knowledge 

Researchers: David Kronlid (main applicant, Uppsala University), Leif Östman (Uppsala University), Joacim Andersson (Uppsala University), Jonas Risberg (Uppsala University), Chris Shilling (Kent University), Jim Garrison (Virginia Tech University).

Funder and duration: Swedish Research Council, 2014-2017

Teaching Traditions and Learning. Comparative Didactic Analysis of Science Education and Physical Education and Health in Sweden, Switzerland and France 

Researchers: Jonas Almqvist (main applicant, Uppsala University), Leif Östman (Uppsala University), Karim Hamsa (Stockholm University), Malena Lidar (Uppsala University), Eva Lundqvist (Uppsala University), Marie Öhman (Örebro University), P.O. Wickman (Stockholm University), Gérard Sensevy (University of Bretagne), Chantal Amade-Escot (Toulouse University), Florence Ligozat (Genève University).

Funder and duration: Swedish Research Council, 2013-2017

Grades and National Tests in Year 6: Potential Influence on Science Teaching 

Researchers: Malena Lidar (main applicant, Uppsala University), Leif Östman (Uppsala University), Eva Lundqvist (Uppsala University), Jim Ryder (University of Leeds), Graham Orpwood (University of Toronto).

Funder and duration: Swedish Research Council, 2013-2017

The Entanglement of Power and Knowledge in the Science and Technology Classrooms: Teachers Enactments of Disciplinary Discourses as Establishing Inclusion and Exclusion 

Researchers: Anna Danielsson (main applicant, Uppsala University), Leif Östman (Uppsala University), Malena Lidar (Uppsala University), Maria Berge (Umeå University), Åke Ingerman (University of Gothenburg).

Funder and duration: Swedish Research Council, 2012-2015

Preconditions of environmental moral learning within education for sustainable development: A multidisciplinary study of young Swedes’ attitudes, commitments and actions

Researchers: Lena Molin (main applicant, Uppsala University), Leif Östman (Uppsala University), Carl Reinhold Bråkenhielm (Uppsala University), Ulrika Svalfors (Uppsala University), Tomas Torbjörnsson (Uppsala University).

Funder and duration: Swedish Research Council, 2010-2015

Last modified: 2022-03-10