There are growing demands in society and in schools for the formulation of a new purpose for education that offers leaders, teachers and students a way into more sustainable and ethical ways of living and learning. This is part of the move towards more ecological and culturally situated approaches to whole school reform where environmental education and sustainability are seen as critical to implementing mainstream educational agendas. How this transition might actually be achieved, is however, anything but clear – and more studies are needed. One such study of whole school reform is glimpsed in this paper. It provides insight into how an educational leader used Storythread (an arts and place-based approach to environmental education) to move an educational community through a process of profound cultural change. What this paper proposes, based on insights drawn from a nine year journey of change in a school, and building on understandings taken from a combination of Complexity, Psychoanalytic and Activity theory, is that effective leaders find ways to deal with the creativity and anxiety generated by change by providing the right mix of ‘transitional objects’ and ‘cultural tools’ to provide teachers with the ‘emotional support’ and ‘practical mediation’ that will help them engage successfully with innovative new ideas. In this case, the principal kept Eco State School willingly balanced at the creative edge of change as teachers experimented with new forms of teaching and learning. In this way, the she created a ‘safe space’ where teachers felt free to experiment with alternative ideas and a ‘practical space’ where they could begin to master new forms of education practice. What eventually emerged was a re-vitalized learning community.
|Keywords:||Storythread, Place-Based Environmetal Education, Whole School Reform, Complexity, Transitional Object, Cultural Tool|
Principal / Director, Pullenvale Environmetal Education Centre, Education Queensland, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
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