Description - Charles Sturt University

Sustaining practice: The theory and development
of educational practice/praxis in the context of
Education for Sustainability (EfS)
During 2007-2009 Professor Stephen Kemmis and Rebecca
Mutton conducted an investigation of educational practice in
ten Education for Sustainability (EfS) initiatives as part of an
ARC Discovery grant. The research aimed to characterise
exemplary practice in school and community EfS and
focused on rural/regional Australia, specifically NSW sites in
the Murray-Darling Basin (crucial to the Australian
agricultural economy, under substantial environmental
threat, and undergoing significant social and demographic
change). The research used new developments in practice
theory to achieve innovative rich characterisations of
individual and extra-individual (cultural, discursive, social,
material) aspects of practice with significant implications for
sustainability, practice theory, education, and education for
the professions.
The study aimed to make a rich characterisation of praxis
(‘morally-informed, committed action’), contributing to the
development of educational theory, policy and practice. In
particular, the study aimed to further develop:
(1) practice theory in education and the social sciences;
(2) the theory and practice of education for sustainability as
a field of educational action crucial to Australia’s future;
(3) the theory and practice of teacher education; and
(4) the theory and practice of education for the professions.
The study was a philosophical-empirical investigation
employing case study methods to interpret evidence from
research literature, documents and fieldwork in relation to
the place and development of praxis (in the context of
Education for Sustainability). The study aimed to identify
key issues relating to praxis and praxis development, as
they are clustered and structured in and around the settings
of EfS initiatives, as viewed from the perspectives of
participants, and evident in documents and literature.
Particular attention was given to exploring how five different
dimensions of sustainability (environmental-ecological,
material-economic, cultural-discursive, social-political,
personological) were represented or enacted in the actions
and understandings of different participants and groups.
Policy implications and anticipated outcomes
The analysis and interpretation suggested directions for EfS
policy, especially regarding changing the conditions for
practice, not just teachers’ professional practice knowledge.
Implications for practice were also identified, suggesting the
kinds of changes that teachers might make to ensure EfS
innovations are sustainable, and also about how to have
greater ecological impact via EfS activities.
Analysis of the case data contributed to the development of
an innovative theory of ‘practice architectures’ and
‘ecologies of practice’. This theory is being further
developed in subsequent research projects. There are
some significant new understandings arising from this
research regarding the conduct of professional practice in
societies that have become hyper-rationalised by massively
expanded policy and administrative control. In particular, the
findings of the research point towards possibilities for remoralising and re-professionalising practices (like education)
whose moral content has been compromised by demands
for bureaucratic compliance and rule-following. These
findings have profound implications for the conduct of
Australian education.
Professor Stephen Kemmis
Address: RIPPLE, Charles Sturt University, Locked Bag
588, Wagga Wagga NSW 2678
Phone: +61 2 6933 2149
[email protected]