Competencies and teaching methods in education for sustainable development in Technical and Vocational programs in Iran

Ghassami, F., Yousefi, E., & Salehi, E. (2020). Prioritizing the teaching methods of ESD using an integrated fuzzy entropy–SAW algorithm (case study: technical and vocational schools). Applied Environmental Education & Communication, 19, 205 - 220.

Attention to education for sustainable development (ESD) in formal educational settings has been increasingly emphasized over the decades. Sustainable development (SD) is composed of three factors: economy, society, and the environment. The economic aspect refers to the awareness of financial limits and growth. Society refers to the democracy-based system, giving participants a voice to express their opinions. Lastly, the environment focuses on the awareness of natural resources and environmental issues. ESD aims to prepare people with the knowledge, skills, and critical thinking needed to create a sustainable future. It is important to promote ESD in technical and vocational (T&V) programs, as those students will influence industry, services, and agriculture, and sustainability is needed in those sectors. Previous studies in this field addressed the need to incorporate ESD into T&V programs; however, no research has been allotted to select and prioritize teaching methods of ESD for T&V. This study investigated what SD competencies are needed in T&V programs, what competencies are most important, and what teaching methods improve SD competency in T&V school programs among regions of Iran.

The research occurred in four steps: 1) SD competency criteria, what students should know about sustainability, of T&V programs were identified through a literature review and then prioritized through an analytics algorithm. 2) The researchers developed a questionnaire, in the form of a square matrix, that had SD competencies in the columns and teaching methods in the rows. Then experts (select graduates of T&V schools in Iran) rated each option on a scale of 1-7, a higher score indicated a higher positive relationship between a teaching method and SD competency. 3) Questionnaire responses were analyzed. 4) Based on analysis, teaching methods were ranked according to best suited to teach SD in T&V programs.

The researchers concluded that sustainability knowledge, skill, attitude, and eloquence/growth proved to be the major categories of SD learning criteria. They then organized their findings into sub categories. Knowledge subcategories included understanding of science and problem-solving skills; skills included vocational, practical, and communication skills; attitude included sense of responsibility towards the environment and motivation to serve; and growth and eloquence included lifelong learning and self-motivation. Based on analyzing the experts' rankings, the most critical criteria were ability to work with specialized tools, creative thinking, and translating environmental knowledge into pro-environmental activities. By comparison, the criterion weighted least important was knowledge of Iranian norms, values, and culture. Regarding SD teaching methods, performance-based learning, group discussion, and problem-solving were ranked the most effective, while lecture methods were the least effective at improving SD.

There were limitations to this study. The experts involved in ranking the teaching methods as they related to SD criteria were based in Iran, thus these results may not apply outside of that context. The researchers also do not state how many experts were consulted, so it is unclear the breadth of opinions that were included in this study.

The researchers of this paper make no recommendations. It can be concluded from the results that embracing more experiential forms of education, such as performance-based and problem-solving activities, can better improve learning in SD for technical and vocational students.

The Bottom Line

<p>Attention to sustainable development (SD) in formal educational settings has been increasingly emphasized over the decades, such as through education for sustainable development (ESD). This study investigated what SD competencies are needed in T&V programs, what competencies are most important, and what teaching methods improve SD competency in T&V school programs among regions of Iran. The researchers asked select graduates of Iranian T&V schools to rank SD teaching methods and SD competencies in T&V schools. The most critical criteria chosen by the experts were specialized tools, creative thinking, and converting professional environmental knowledge into pro-environmental activities. In comparison, the criterion ranked least important was knowledge of Iranian culture. Performance-based learning, group discussion, and problem-solving were ranked the most effective teaching methods.</p>

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