Towards a “new moment” in Life Sciences Education: Facilitating critical complexity thinkers in South African secondary schools

Noel, Gerard Vernon (2016-03)

Thesis (MPA)--Stellenbosch University, 2016.

Thesis

ENGLISH SUMMARY: The global polycrisis, particularly ecological degradation and humans’ estrangement from nature, is an epistemological crisis that has been created by an industrial, mechanistic and reductionist way of knowledge creation. As our knowing informs our way of being and acting in the world, this study attempts to answer the call for urgent educational reform in promoting a critical complexity approach to Education for Sustainable Development (ESD). Using the South African Life Sciences curriculum and a theoretical framework developed through literature on complexity theory, systems theory, ecoliteracy and ESD, a teaching and learning experience entitled the Working with Nature (WWN) project was developed. Six diversely different secondary schools from the Western Cape of South Africa participated in this project which through participatory action research (PAR), explored the effect that it had on the thinking, values and knowledge of both teachers and learners. From a thematic analysis on the emergent narratives, it was found that that the learning experience did promote integrative thinking and value tendencies and that there was growth in both the explicit-formal and explicit-informal knowledge typologies of the participants. Other key themes that emerged from the experience were diversity values, grit and resilience and contextual thinking. Themes that emerged that were more teacher specific were around process rather than product learning and learner-centeredness. The implications of this research are vast, however mainly suggest that mainstreaming a critical complexity learning experience is possible and that perhaps this may be the start of a transitioning towards a “new moment” in Life Sciences education, which translates not only into ESD, but also a complexity ethic – creating mindful teachers and learners who engage and participate in the world sustainably. Further studies are necessary in developing strategies for reform and transformation within all education levels towards effectively implementing ESD.

AFRIKAANS OPSOMMING: Die globale polikrisis, veral die ekologiese degradasie en die mensdom se vervreemding van die natuur, is ‘n epistemologiese krisis wat deur ‘n industriële, meganistiese en gereduseerde manier van kennisskepping geskep is. Omdat kennis ons manier van wees en handel in hierdie wêreld lei, poog hierdie studie om die roepe tot dringende opvoedkundige hervorming te beantwoord. Dit doen so deur deur ‘n kritisiese kompleksiteits-benadering tot Opvoeding vir Volhoubare Ontwikkeling (OVO) aan te moedig. Deur gebruik te maak van die Suid-Afrikaanse Lewenswetenskappe kurrikulum, sowel as ‘n teoretiese raamwerk wat deur letterkunde oor die kompleksiteitsteorie, sisteme-teorie, eko-letterkunde en opvoeding vir volhoubare ontwikkeling ontwikkel is, is ‘n onderrig-en-leer ervaring genaamd die Working with Nature (WWN)-projek ontwikkel. Ses diverse sekondêre skole in die Wes-Kaap van Suid-Afrika het aan hierdie projek deelgeneem. Die projek het op deelnemende aksie-navorsing berus en het die effek wat dit op die denke, waardes en kennis van beide die leerders en onderwysers het, ondersoek. ‘n Tematiese analise van die ontwikkelende verhale het gevind dat die leer-ervaring neigings to geïntegreerde denke en waardes bevorder het en dat daar ‘n groei in beide die eksplisiet-formeel en eksplisiet-informele kennis tipologieë van die deelnemers was. Ander sleuteltemas wat deur die ervaring na vore gekom het was diversiteitswaardes, waagmoed en elastisiteit asook kontekstuele denke. Temas wat as onderwyser-spesifiek na vore gekom het, het rondom prosesse gehandel eerder as produkleer en leerdergesentreerdheid. Die implikasie van hierdie studie is wyd, maar dit stel hoofsaaklik voor dat dit moontlik is om ‘n kritiese kompleksiteitsleer-ervaring deel van die hoofstroomopvoeding te maak en dat dit moontlik die begin van ‘n oorgang na ‘n “new moment” in Lewenswetenskapopvoeding kan wees. Hierdie oorgang sal beide OVO en etiek rondom kompleksiteit aanmoedig – om indagtige onderwysers en leerders te skep wat volhoubaar in en met die wêreld besig is. Verdere studies is nodig om strategieë te ontwikkel vir die hervorming en transformasie binne alle opvoedingsvlakke om effektiewe OVO te implimenteer.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/98867
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