Education for Sustainable Development in chemistry education – A project of innovating practice by strengthening the expertise of teachers

University of Bremen Germany

Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Ingo Eilks

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Our today’s world and society is facing several problems, such as climate change, social injustice, or the depletion of natural resources. In order to find solutions for these problems, the idea of sustainable development was developed. Sustainable development aims to meet human needs today without compromising the abilities for future generations to meet their needs. One central issue to come to a sustainable development is suggested in investing into education to promote skills for contributing to sustainable development. Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) is suggested to be central when it comes to shape our future in a sustainable manner. Focus of ESD is that students acquire skills which prepare them for active participation in societal debates and decision-making processes concerning sustainability issues. All school subjects and all educational levels are asked to contribute to ESD, among them secondary chemistry education. However, chemistry education in many countries neglects a thorough contribution to ESD. The curricula are still too often focused exclusively on scientific facts and theories and not on general skills that allow the students contributing to sustainable development. If done at all, teaching about chemistry-related issues of sustainability development mostly is restricted to the science background of the respective issue and not focused on understanding the interplay of science and technology with their ecological, economic, or societal implications.

This PhD project intended to initiate change by applying Participatory Action Research to innovate and research chemistry teacher education concerning ESD. The project intended both to make an empirical analysis of the status quo as well as innovating practice by curriculum design and investment in teacher education. For this purpose, German chemistry teachers‘ and student teachers‘ knowledge and attitudes towards sustainability and ESD were researched. Problems and knowledge gaps were identified, however very positive attitudes were also found. In a project of school-focused Participatory Action Research lesson plan materials for including ESD into chemistry education in the case plastics was developed as well as a new pedagogy: The product test method. Based on a thorough review of the literature, the empirical studies, and the newly developed curriculum materials a teacher training module was developed. The development of the module was based on Participatory Action Research too. Development was done by a collaborative and cyclical design process of innovation, testing, evaluation and refinement in three consecutive academic years. Results from evaluating both the school curriculum materials as well as the teacher training module showed that a thorough inclusion of ESD into secondary chemistry education and chemistry teacher education is possible and can be considered highly valuable. Positive effects were observed in students and student teachers’ subject matter knowledge and knowledge on sustainability. The pedagogical content knowledge of the student teachers concerning ESD was enriched and their self-efficacy of applying ESD in class developed.

The major findings from the thesis are published in the following journal articles:

Burmeister, M., Rauch, F., & Eilks, I. (2012). Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) and secondary chemistry education. Chemistry Education Research and Practice, 13, 59-68.
Burmeister, M., & Eilks, I. (2012). An example of learning about plastics and their evaluation as a contribution to Education for Sustainable Development in secondary school chemistry teaching. Chemistry Education Research and Practice, 13, 93-102.
Burmeister, M., & Eilks, I. (2012). Development of a training module for future chemistry teachers on education for sustainable development. Chimica nella Scuola, 34, 62-67.
Burmeister, M., & Eilks, I. (2013). Using Participatory Action Research to develop a course module on Education for Sustainable Development in pre-service chemistry teacher education. Centre for Educational Policy Studies Journal, 3, 59-78.
Burmeister, M., Schmidt-Jacob, S., & Eilks, I. (2013). German chemistry teachers’ knowledge and PCK of Green Chemistry and education for sustainable development. Chemistry Education Research and Practice, 14, 169 - 176.
Burmeister, M., & Eilks, I. (2013). German Chemistry student teachers‘ and trainee teachers‘ understanding of sustainability and education for sustainable development. Science Education International, 24, 167-194.
Burmeister, M., & Eilks, I. (forthcoming). Learning about sustainability and the evaluation of different plastics by the product testing method. School Science Review accepted for publication.

Burmeister, M., & Eilks, I. (2011). Ist ein Bio-Kunststoff immer besser als PVC? – Die Warentest Methode und ein Beispiel aus dem Chemieunterricht. Praxis der Naturwissenschaften – Chemie in der Schule, 60(5), 33-36.
Burmeister, M., Jokmin, S., & Eilks, I. (2011). Bildung für nachhaltige Entwicklung und Green Chemistry im Chemieunterricht. Chemie konkret, 18, 123-128.
Burmeister, M., Rauch, F., & Eilks, I. (2012). Bildung für Nachhaltige Entwicklung durch Chemieunterricht – Theorie und Praxis (Teil 1). Chemie & Schule, 27 (2), 15-19.
Burmeister, M., Rauch, F., & Eilks, I. (2012). Bildung für Nachhaltige Entwicklung durch Chemieunterricht – Theorie und Praxis (Teil 2). Chemie & Schule, 27, 11-16.
Burmeister, M., & Eilks, I. (2013). Lernen über Bildung für eine nachhaltige Entwicklung (BnE) in der Chemielehrerbildung – ein Projekt Partizipativer Aktionsforschung. Chemie konkret, 20, 66-72.

Thesis (cumulative thesis based on articles in English and German language)
Burmeister, M. (2012). Bildung für nachhaltige Entwicklung im Chemieunterricht – Ein Projekt zur Praxisinnovation durch Stärkung der Lehrerexpertise. Dissertation University of Bremen.

Dr. Mareike Burmeister,

University of Bremen,

Leobener Str. NW2,

28334 Bremen, Germany;

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

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