Education for Sustainability: Developing Ecocritical Literature Circles in the Student Teacher Classroom

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How can student-teachers learn efficient ways to encourage sustainability thinking in their pupils and fulfil the competence aims on sustainability outlined in national subject curriculums as a response to UNESCO’s programme on Education for Sustainable Development, ESD? The core hypothesis of this project was that tailored literature circles, focused on the ecocritical aspects of literary texts, would make student-teachers aware of how they can use literature as a process to reflect on sustainability. This would enable them to incorporate sustainability thinking into their own teaching practices.

The project’s tailoring of the standard literature circle roles (Daniels 1994, 2002, 2006) involved the design of reading roles that highlighted ecocritical and generic aspects of the studied texts and the application of an analytical matrix developed by literary scholars researching the representation of nature in children’s and young adult literature. This article presents the results of a small-scale study testing the ecocritical literature circles approach and its impact on student-teachers’ conception of their own ability to meet the competence aims on sustainability in their teaching. The intervention included lectures on ecocriticism and on the posthuman debate prior to the literature circles and student feedback through pre- and post-circle questionnaires. It was implemented in the teacher-training classroom, working with dystopian science fiction texts for young adults. These texts present the reader with visions of the future. The study showed that the ecocritical literature circles, and in particular the ecocritical reading roles, were considered useful by the participating student-teachers. The participants also reported a significant increase in confidence relative to their own ability to discuss sustainability issues with their pupils.

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