How might education respond to the Anthropocene and its human-impacted environmental concerns?
The impact of human activities on our planet has accelerated since the nuclear fallout in 1945. Our effects in total have been said to form a new geological age, the Anthropocene. Calls for more action on climate change encompass the education sector, and climate action is increasingly important to our learners. There is a need for an educational response in the face of various environmental crises. Education in outdoor settings, or place-responsive pedagogy, is a suitable starting point.
Jonathan Lynch, Co-Head of Professional Practice Programmes, and collaborator Greg Mannion, examined the role that more-than-human elements play, using multicase study methodology. The authors replace the term ‘nature’ with more-than-human because it signifies a way of understanding living and non-living things without reducing them to something less important than the human. This changing of hierarchy is an example of posthumanism – a critical body of thought that rejects anthropocentrism. Anthropocentric understandings of sustainability tend to ignore the entangled, multispecies realities of the world we share. In this research, the authors used a posthumanist conceptual frame to move beyond ‘stewardship’ pedagogies that see humans as more important than other species. Instead, they set out to understand how such a non-anthropocentric position might offer new ways of improving human-environment relations through education.
The research question was how might educators effectively harness the more-than-human to facilitate outdoor learning? Five teachers were selected for the study who would provide a valuable variety of perspectives for a series of 35 vignettes. Comparisons across vignettes elicited findings that show how teachers' place-responsive pedagogies are derived from:
- What educators and learners are able to notice and respond to,
- How educators choose to build upon this noticing and response-making, and
- How they actively incorporate the agencies of the more-than-human into teaching and learning.
Ongoing attunements were being made reciprocally by all participants to each other – educators, learners, and the more-than-human – and between the participants and their place of learning.