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How Can Initial Teacher Education Tackle "Super-Wicked" Problems?

In: Scottish Educational Review
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  • Moray House School of Education, University of Edinburgh
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The concept of "Super-wicked" problems is attracting increasing attention and scrutiny through research and publication in wide-ranging interdisciplinary areas. The concept is being lionised in the literature to draw attention to the urgency that is required to act immediately on problems such as climate change and sustainability. Importantly, the solutions to super-wicked problems are not based on defeatist attitudes but seek instead to build resilience among key stakeholders specifically to bring about change. This paper charts the internationally unique alignment in Scotland between Scottish Government education policy and the General Teaching Council for Scotland's Professional Standards. In so doing, it distinguishes between the international concept of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) and the more expansive Scottish concept known as Uearning for Sustainability (UfS). A qualitative case study based on Appreciative Inquiry was adopted to answer the Research Question: “How do students and their Programme Director on a Programme designed to promote teacher activism understand and engage with LfS?” The Programme Director and then four students from the recently-accredited MSc in Transformative Uearning and Teaching (TUT) were interviewed to discover how they were navigating their way through the UfS policy landscape and whether, and to what extent, the Professional Standards for UfS were embedded in the Programme. The study found that all five were very aware of some of the implications of UfS because they valued contested interpersonal relationships, views and ideologies. Furthermore, they advocated the use experiential learning in diverse places in order to include the emotional and cognitive domains of learning. As such, the Programme was found to be an early innovator of UfS implementation, specifically in demonstrating an ethical disposition towards the human community. In keeping with the essential UfS concept of interconnectedness, this study recommends that these ethics should be extended beyond the human community to include care for the non-human. Furthermore, if one of the purposes of the Professional Standards is to embed UfS within Scottish Programmes, and by extension educational responses to sustainability worldwide, the early innovators who are working to embed this into their practices need greater support from the registration bodies responsible for monitoring and enhancing professionalism. Finally, in keeping with the concept of super-wicked problems, in order to bring about systemic change to ITE programmes worldwide, there is a need for additional support from bold, futurethinking, decision makers at all levels of leadership among stakeholders, including universities that offer ITE programmes.

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