Impact of Learning for Sustainability on educational outcomes: summary

Summary of research into the impact of Learning for Sustainability on educational outcomes.


Impact on the personal development of learners: Learning for Sustainability can support young people to explore, experience and come to know themselves, their connection to the world around them, and the contributions they can make to society now and for the future. It can engage them in local community issues which can help them to understand the interdependencies between 'their place' and the wider world, and their role within those relationships. This type of understanding can help young people build confidence to act, develop respect for themselves and others, and provide opportunities to flourish across different aspects of their lives.

Impact on understanding of citizenship: Learning for Sustainability can enable young people to think about the connections and dependencies between different aspects of life. This can include considering the relationships between people of different backgrounds, nationalities and cultures, and our collective and individual relationships with the natural world. As young people explore LfS in this way they can discover a range of perspectives on issues such as fairness, justice and equity. This can help them to understand that our actions have consequences for other human beings and the natural world, and that when we act we have responsibilities as well as rights – a core feature of citizenship.

Impact on academic attainment: As a holistic approach to education, LfS has the potential to support progression and 'attainment' across Curriculum for Excellence (CfE). This is particularly so through outdoor learning, where there is increasingly strong evidence that experiences in nature can boost academic learning, including in subject areas unrelated to the outdoor context. The research stressed the significance for pupils who were 'underachieving' and those with 'learning difficulties', highlighting the generally calmer, quieter, outdoor environment and the opportunity for more co-operative, yet self-led learning. Further, the review also highlighted the benefits of time spent outdoors in terms of health and wellbeing, stress reduction, improved mental health and confidence of young people, all of which are known to support academic attainment. This aligns closely with the emphasis in CfE on good health and wellbeing (alongside literacy and numeracy) [6] as the foundation of all attainment, and as a responsibility of all school staff.

Impact on skills for life and work beyond formal education: LfS can encourage the development of critical thinking skills. It can help young people to uncover and unpick complex issues. It can also support creativity, allowing learners to imagine solutions to existing and emerging issues. Learning for Sustainability can therefore offer an opportunity to develop and practice skills necessary to thrive in an increasingly fast-paced, uncertain world.

Impact on closing the poverty-related attainment gap and reducing inequity within education: No literature was found that examined how LfS might specifically address the poverty-related attainment gap. However, it is clear that LfS affords an opportunity to do so indirectly by raising awareness of the relationship between a sustainable future and a more equal society. It can also offer opportunities to address issues of social justice and 'fairness' by enabling learners to engage with local, national and global issues as part of a wider community or as individuals.

Impact on overall educational setting: Learning for Sustainability can improve the culture, and therefore indirectly support improvement within an educational setting. However, time and resources are required to ensure that LfS is meaningfully embedded. This includes allowing everyone time to fully explore some of the complex issues covered by LfS and consider how they apply in their local contexts.



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