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Trading Zones in Environmental Education

Creating Transdisciplinary Dialogue


Edited By Marianne E. Krasny and Justin Dillon

Environmental educators often adhere to a relatively narrow theoretical paradigm focusing on changing attitudes and knowledge, which are assumed to foster pro-environmental behaviors, which, in turn, leads to better environmental quality. This book takes a different approach to trying to understand how environmental education might influence people, their communities, and the environment. The authors view changing environmental behaviors as a «wicked» problem, that is, a problem that does not readily lend itself to solutions using existing disciplinary approaches. The book as a whole opens up new avenues for pursuing environmental education research and practice and thus expands the conversation around environmental education, behaviors, and quality. Through developing transdisciplinary research questions and conceptual paradigms, this book also suggests new practices beyond those currently used in environmental education, natural resources management, and other environmental fields.
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Chapter 4. Learning and Knowing in Pursuit of Sustainability: Concepts and Tools for Transdisciplinary Environmental Research: Scott Peters and Arjen E. J. Wals



Chapter 4

Learning and Knowing in Pursuit of Sustainability: Concepts and Tools for Transdisciplinary Environmental Research

Scott Peters and Arjen E. J. Wals

Unsustainability is rapidly becoming a key focus in research and education across the planet. Facilitating and pursuing sustainability is not simply or only a scientific and technical project; it has complex ethical, philosophical, and political dimensions. As such, it requires an embrace of epistemological pluralism that engages multiple ways of knowing, and multiple forms of knowledge. While ways of knowing that produce scientific and technical knowledge remain necessary, they need to be integrated with ways of knowing that produce what Aristotle called phronesis: a form of practical wisdom that can guide us in what should be done and how to act—in a moral, ethical, and political rather than technical and instrumental sense. Our purpose here is to provide a set of concepts and tools practitioners of transdisciplinary research can use to co-produce both scientific knowledge and phronesis. Practical theory building is highlighted as a tool that is helpful in designing sustainability-oriented education and research. We conclude by briefly noting several challenges and opportunities for academic professionals and students who ← 79 | 80 → seek to practice a publicly engaged form of transdisciplinary environmental research that embraces epistemological pluralism.

We use the concept of transdisciplinary environmental research rather than transdisciplinary environmental education research (TDEE) deliberately to indicate that transdisciplinary environmental research that pursues sustainability inevitably will need to have an education...

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