Millions for research on impact of sustainability and climate change education

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Photo: Lize Kraan | Summerschool Junior Utrecht University
Photo: Lize Kraan | Summerschool Junior Utrecht University

A large consortium led by Utrecht University has been awarded a 5 million euro Horizon Europe grant. The partners will develop an assessment framework to map the impact of sustainability and climate change education. The number of initiatives in this field has grown enormously, but due to a lack of insight into their quality, there is a great need for impact assessment. The IMPACT

Opportunities for education about sustainability and climate are plentiful since the UN’s Decade of Education for Sustainable Development. Educational institutions and other organisations have increasingly more options to choose from when it comes to educational methods that seek to raise awareness of climate change and promote sustainable actions. Teachers want only the best for their students, but how do they make the right choice? How do they know if a certain method will indeed build their students’ competence to act, and think differently about climate change?

It’s great that our efforts have been rewarded and we can now engage in this

Jelle Boeve-de Pauw, project coordinator

Fierce competition

The European Commission’s major Horizon Europe fund sees this large increase in initiatives as a positive development. However, it wonders how we can get a better grasp on their quality. The fund therefore invited European consortia to propose research to develop an impact assessment framework. After fierce competition, IMPACT emerged as the winner. Coordinator Jelle Boeve-de Pauw still finds it hard to believe. "There were many applications from other consortia, and chances were slim", he says. Boeve-de Pauw is an assistant professor of science education at Utrecht University’s Freudenthal Institute. "It’s great that our efforts have been rewarded and we can now engage in this."

Beyond standard testing

The goal of the project is to develop a set of tools that allow different users to map out the impact of sustainability and climate change education. Assessing that impact is still in its infancy, which is partly because the learning outcomes of this education are complex and go beyond standard testing. It involves learning outcomes such as knowledge of opportunities to act, the motivation to act, and confidence in one’s own influence to support combating climate change. With the results of IMPACT, users will soon be able to assess these learning outcomes.

We need to make educational decisions, often guided by gut feelings, more informed by insights from scientific research

Jelle Boeve-de Pauw, project coordinator

Customised tools

Utrecht University leads the consortium, and research institutes from Germany, Belgium, Sweden, Italy, Serbia, and the Czech Republic are partners. In addition, organisations engaged in sustainability and climate change education, such as an educational association and a scout organisation are participating, as well as a government agency responsible for policy in the field. "We chose our partners very strategically," Boeve-de Pauw emphasises. "They are a reflection of potential users of the framework we are going to develop. This way we can directly take into account differences in their needs."

Gut feeling

Schools and other educational organisations play a crucial role in addressing climate problems, Boeve-de Pauw believes. They help educate citizens who are willing and able to contribute to a sustainable future. Boeve-de Pauw emphasises the need to make educational decisions, often guided by gut feelings, more informed by insights from scientific research. He states: "It is the responsibility of universities to make sure that these insights are readily available."

IMPACT partners

Utrecht University (Freudenthal Institute and U-Talent), Karlstad University, University of Vechta, University of Antwerp, Masaryk University, INVALSI: National Institute for the Evaluation of the Education and Training System, Centre for the promotion of science in Serbia, Keep Sweden Tidy, DGHochN: German Society for Sustainability at Higher Education Institutions, Flemish Government: Sustainable Education Hub, Scouting Institute in Czech Rebublic.