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Are learners empowered to shape a sustainable future?

EmpowermentWhat kind of future do you envision? What are the competences that a learner of the present should master in order to be able to shape a sustainable future? As an educator, how can you support your students in such a way that they will be able to find their own answers? Asking these questions is about empowerment. But why and how?

Empowerment brings the learners to the centre of the learning experience: it’s about recognising and realising their own humanity and their own ability to take action for positive change. Empowering learners enables them to cooperate and to take ownership of their learning. Everybody can make a change. To experience this can help learners to shape the future in a sustainable way.

To help with the application of empowerment in practice, as a planning and reflective mechanism, we want to ask some questions that can help stimulate this process. They can be seen as triggers and definitely are not meant to be a finite check-list.

→ Does the learning experience allow for elements such as interaction / reflection / communication / exchange / recognition of emotions

→ Is self-directed learning possible / are learners self-directed?

→ Which competences (see the full list here) are promoted?

To read more about our thinking behind the importance of empowerment in learning for sustainability click here.

For inspiration about supporting competences required for a green economy view our green careers competency list.

To find European examples of green career competences in action that can be used to inspire learners check out the selection of green career profiles collected by the Real World Learning Network.

Ripples of empowerment

Behind each of the empowerment ripples lies a selection of competences for sustainability. These have been compiled and distilled from a range of existing European lists, from workshops with European educators, through consultation with experts and extensive collaboration by outdoor educators from across Europe.

  • enable learners to cooperate, participate, take responsibility and learn in a self-directed way
  • enable learners to deal with their own feelings and the feelings of others

 All across the world change is underway; profound changes in the ways societies conduct their everyday affairs – ways that are leading to a new wave of environmental protection with lasting impacts. Everyone should have the opportunity to be part of this change by cooperating and participating actively and responsibly, with consideration of their own feelings and the feelings of other.

The competences below will play a part in the realisation of this step toward empowerment for a sustainable future.

Competence for Sustainability Learners will develop skills for team working, cooperation and participation in an active and democratic way.
Learners will be able to take on individual and collective responsibility for themselves, others and the world around them.
Learners will be able to reflect upon and communicate their own feelings considerately, and respect the feelings of others.
Learners will be able to listen actively and communicate in a clear, and respectful  way.
  • enable learners to be reflective and critical thinkers – considering different perspectives to reach informed opinions and decisions

Learners will need to develop a range of thinking related competences in order to play a positive role in a sustainable society. The competences outlined below offer a starting point for this element of empowerment.

Competence for Sustainability Learners will be able to think critically and with curiosity about the world around them, including information they encounter.
Learners will develop the ability to reflect upon and modify their behaviour and actions in accordance with the effects these have on the world around them. 
Learners will be able to apply a systems approach to their thinking, moving away from linear thinking patterns.
Learners will be able to form informed and autonomously reached opinions and decisions.
Learners will be able to consider things from different perspectives and to understand the perspectives of others.
  • allow learners to take ownership of their learning and reflect on what and how they have learned

In a sustainable society it is necessary to be a lifelong learner; continually seeking new knowledge, skills or abilities, not only in professional life but also in other areas of life which define the social role of being adults.

The competences below compliment and give emphasis to this idea of life as a learning journey.

Competence for Sustainability Learners will be able to apply a holistic and interdisciplinary manner to their learning.
Learners will be able to reflect upon their own abilities and gain self belief in order to take action in a positive and sustainable way.
Learners will be able to form and conduct life plans, taking responsibility for their lifelong learning.
  • empower learners to be creative, flexible and able to take positive action to deal with change

The competences outlined below help focus and develop this thinking, offering areas to build on in teaching and learning for sustainability.

Competence for Sustainability Learners will be able to apply knowledge and methodologies that explain the natural world in order to explore positive solutions to human impacts. 
Learners will be able to deal with a changing and uncertain world by developing an adaptive and flexible approach in their thinking and action.
Learners will develop a sense of initiative and of turning ideas into action. This involves creativity, innovation and risk-taking.
Learners will be able to apply sustainability concepts to examples from their own lives, motivating themselves and others to act accordingly. 
Learners will be able to envisage a positive future, thinking and acting with respect for future generations. 
  • enable learners to become conscious of interconnectedness - you, me and the world around

The competences below have both individual and social dimensions. Working on the individual dimension, developing the capabilities of individuals, prepares future generations to be able to participate actively and consciously in an actively sustainable society.

Competence for Sustainability Learners will be able to recognise their relationship to nature, appreciating the need to live in balance with it. 
Learners will be able to think and behave according to the bigger global and smaller local environmental and social needs, understanding the need to consider their actions on both.
Learners will be able to experience and take responsibility for promoting their physical and mental health and well-being through interaction with and in nature.