This project was initiated by Backatorpsskolan, Gothenburg, as the school board recognised the goal 4.7 in Agenda 2030: Education for sustainable development and global citizenship as a considerable challenge. Thus, the application for this project was driven by the recognition of the pressing issues related to sustainability and the need for education to meet the aspirations of the new generations. Knowing that many students have climate anxiety, and that some of them regard school’s education less relevant made the project urgent. Traditional school framing, divided into several different subjects, describing reality in small parts, no longer addresses the issues students are looking for. Fridays For Future has spread all over the world and some students feel that it's more relevant to protest than to attend school. The underlying need for the project was to find ways of changing our schools to be more relevant for students.
The school acknowledged the need for help from other countries’ curriculum work, to develop teaching approaches for sustainability and resilience, and the need for including researchers to analyse these approaches. Schools in Slovenia, Iceland and Finland were asked to participate, as were the universities of Gothenburg in Sweden, Østfold in Norway and Åbo Akademi in Finland, since they were all working with sustainability and student-centred teaching. In addition, two organisations from Sweden, NAV and Storyline Sweden were invited; both have long experience in innovation and learning. We wanted to bring researchers, schools, and professionals outside the school system together to try to develop new ways of dealing with sustainability issues in schools, but also to examine closely the personal, and dynamic group processes, when working with the way we view the world and how we affect it. We therefore wanted to bring together individuals from different age groups, disciplines, trades, and organisations.
Our project sought to address the challenges we face today and the challenges of how education can meet the new generations’ call for action as demonstrated by the massive school walkouts in 2019-2020. The participating partners in this project wanted to develop current strategies for sustainability education by moving away from instructing students in predictable directions towards providing them with a sense of agency. We wanted to develop teaching and learning methods that empower students and enhance qualitative pedagogical methods by using the student-active Storyline approach as a framework, as it is interdisciplinary, and various school subjects are intertwined. We sought to create stories that inspire students as well as teachers, to view themselves as agents of change to be better prepared for an uncertain future. Subsequently, the underlying aim was to develop the pedagogical approach of Storyline itself, foremost as a pedagogical tool to increase learning for sustainability.
We wanted to gather people with different backgrounds to share and discuss how we could develop the Storyline approach to engage students. By analysing different Storylines we wanted to identify what, how and why the elements in a Storyline work. Also, we wanted to contribute new knowledge to the Storyline community as well as to the broader educational field. By engaging researchers from three different countries we wanted to study the approach and shed light on the method’s opportunities and obstacles. We believed it was crucial that practitioners and researchers collaborated to find these results.
The project aimed to develop and provide new knowledge about the pedagogical approach of Storyline in relation to Education for Sustainable Development. We expected an enhanced understanding of how to use Storyline in the twenty-first century in general, and how to use Storyline in relation to education for sustainable issues specifically.
We expected that the project, while developing the Storyline approach as a tool for teaching and a method of learning about sustainability, would have an impact on students, teachers, teacher educators and the research community. The impact we wanted to achieve was on a practical level – e.g. by developing and testing pedagogical tools for teaching and learning about sustainability – and on an intrinsic level while supporting the feeling of agency, and competency to act towards sustainability, amongst students, student teachers, teachers, and researchers. This enhanced understanding encompasses all participants, the participating organisations as well as target groups, although on different educational levels, still interlinked. Specifically, we expected that the project would have both an impact on a practical level in schools, and on a theoretical level amongst scholars in the educational field. Conversely, we consider the practical and the theoretical aspects of education as a reciprocal process, hence both practitioners and scholars need to enhance their understanding of both sides of this coin. In turn, target groups, such as students, would benefit from the development.
We wanted to spread the project’s results by creating a webpage including research results, and practical experiences; that is, a resource bank. For example, we wanted to develop pedagogical tools and theoretical understandings on different educational levels, and at the same time on different regional levels. That was to have an impact 1) locally, on the schools in the participating countries, 2) nationally, on the Universities included in the project, 3) globally, on the Storyline community. Though, we hoped that the pedagogical tools would be spread among schools in the regions and hopefully extend to other regions and eventually, also nationally. Our plan for that to happen was to make the tools known through, amongst other things, a website, video recordings, instructions, and other multimodal texts. In addition, we hoped that the theoretical understanding could reach out to teacher education, teachers, head teachers, scholars and others interested in how to develop education regarding sustainability and resilience. Furthermore, we hoped that the pedagogical tools and theoretical understanding would influence the Storyline community and inspire new projects that will develop Storyline and education for sustainability even further.
By implementing the project, we aimed to:
Overall, our goal was to prepare students for the future by equipping them with the knowledge, skills, and mindset necessary to address sustainability challenges effectively. We aimed to make a lasting impact by promoting sustainable behaviours, strengthening collaboration, and providing resources and tools for educators globally.
To achieve the overall aims of the application, we implemented the following activities:
At the start, the project plan was revised because of the lower budget and financial changes necessitated by Iceland’s withdrawal. For example, all planned activities at the Icelandic school had to be re-prioritised and spread out at other events.
Changes were also made because of Covid19, and in relation to the comments and critique of the project description received from the external experts in the application.
We have followed the project plan, and all planned outputs are completed and published in the Educational Resource Bank. We have published more material than originally planned, such as films, articles, lectures, and other resources. We have also used the resources ourselves in our own organisations. For example, Backatorpsskolan has used filmed lectures, teachers' plans, inspirational movies etc from the resource bank in a number of different ways and levels, according to our needs. As the material is easily accessible, it can serve as a platform for Inservice training for years.
There are many things that we would like to describe, to share the uniqueness of the project.
A Swedish anthology was published in 2022, edited by Häggström, and written by teachers at Backatorpsskolan and six student teachers from the University of Gothenburg. In addition, six student studies were undertaken, which resulted in six academic theses.
The research studies have also resulted in two practice-based chapters for a Norwegian anthology and four research-based peer-reviewed chapters for another anthology.
Website educational resource bank
The resource bank contains the productions that we set out to produce in the project plan and many more outputs, which have been used by participants in the project. We have continuously mirrored the process throughout the project. Every lecture has been published on the website instantly. We have over 50 filmed lectures, instructional films, interviews with teachers and researchers published, with English text to be accessible from all over the world.
The conference, the first Multiplier Event
The planned conference in Gothenburg in 2021 was postponed to 2022. Due to Covid19, we gathered people on-site, and participants on-line. In some places participants organised hubs where people met and took part in the conference together. By doing so they had the chance to hear all lectures, but also to discuss with others face to face. We think this is something that should be developed further since travelling by air is not compatible with sustainable living. Participating in conferences on-line individually limits interactions, but taking part as a group enables it, which may enrich the experience.