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Development of Students’ Sustainability Competencies: Do Teachers Make a Difference?

  • Sustainability competence is an important goal of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) in school. It is therefore anchored in the education plans of almost all school tracks in Germany. However, empirical findings regarding ESD in schools are scarce. The present study thus examined how sustainability competencies of secondary-school students develop within the course of a school year. Based on a proposed framework model of sustainability competencies, we assessed (a) students’ sustainability-related knowledge, (b) their affective-motivational beliefs and attitudes towards sustainability, as well as (c) their self-reported sustainability-related behavioral intentions. Our sample comprised n = 1318 students in 79 classrooms at different secondary school tracks (Grades 5–8) in Baden-Wuerttemberg (Germany). Measurements were taken at the beginning and at the end of the school year after the introduction of ESD as a guiding perspective for the new education plan. We observed an increase in students’ sustainability-related knowledge but a decline in their affective-motivational beliefs and attitudes towards sustainability over the course of one school year. Multilevel analyses showed that, at the individual level, prior learning requirements as well as ESD-related characteristics (students’ activities and general knowledge of sustainability) proved to be the strongest predictors of their development. In addition, grade- and track-specific differences were observed. At the classroom level, teachers’ attitudes towards ESD as well as their professional knowledge were found to be significant predictors of students’ development. The higher the commonly shared value of ESD at school and the higher teachers’ self-efficacy towards ESD, the higher was the students’ development of sustainability-related knowledge and self-reported sustainability-related behavioral intentions, respectively. The significance of the findings for ESD in schools is discussed.

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Author:Katja Scharenberg, Eva-Maria Waltner, Christoph Mischo, Werner Rieß
Parent Title (English):Sustainability
Editor:Piotr Prus
Document Type:Article
Date of first Publication:2021/11/15
Release Date:2021/12/20
Tag:Education for Sustainable Development (ESD); attitudes; competence development; environmental education and sustainability-related skills; knowledge; multilevel analysis
GND Keyword:-
Licence (German):License LogoCreative Commons - CC BY - Namensnennung 4.0 International