RCE Saskatchewan-2017

1. Project Title: 
The Sustainability and Education Policy Network: Leading Through Multi-Sector Learning
2. Thematic area/s addressed by the project
3. Project partner contact information : 
Sustainability Education Research Institute, University of Saskatchewan
Host Institution
Main Contact: 
Marcia McKenzie
Marcia McKenzie
Principal Investigator, SEPN
Alternative project contact: 
Nicola Chopin
Project Manager, SEPN
4. Project type
5. Project description
Provide a short description of the project including strategies, regional challenges, aims and specific project activities.: 

Climate change, new environmental technologies, and energy and water sustainability are not only technical issues—they are cultural and political challenges that require integrated solutions and well-informed and motivated citizens. SEPN is a 7-year, $2 million dollar Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Partnership Grant with $1 million in matching funds, led by Principal Investigator and SERI Director, Dr. Marcia McKenzie. Beginning in Canada in 2011, SEPN is an international research consortium that is examining the relationship between sustainability education policies and practices in K-12 and post-secondary education.

As an internationally recognized leader, SEPN has received a great deal of interest in its innovative methodological toolkit to survey and critique policy on sustainability and education in the formal education sector. The resulting project, the Sustainability and Education Policy Network Alliance (SEPN+), has the goal of undertaking policy research in and across national contexts to provide rigorous, comparative research-based understandings of policy that enable deeper responses to sustainability through education, nationally and internationally. SEPN+ databases will be designed to feed into Global Action Programme and Sustainable Development Goal #4 (education) monitoring processes. SEPN+ projects are being developed in Denmark, New Zealand, and Sweden and a pilot project has recently been completed in Australia.

Partnering and contributing organizations include the Assembly of First Nations, Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Canadian Federation of Students, Canadian Network for Environmental Education and Communication, David Suzuki Foundation, Global Youth Education Network, Learning for a Sustainable Future, Metis National Council, Monash University, Sierra Youth Coalition, Sustainable Development Solutions Network (Australia/Pacific), Sustainability Solutions Group, and Swedish International Centre of Education for Sustainable Development.

SEPN is examining existing policies, practices, and innovations in
curriculum, research, facilities operations, governance, and community outreach in early childhood education to Grade 12 and post-secondary education (PSE). SEPN is organized into three iterative Themes:

  • Theme 1. Document Analysis examines existing policy to understand how current educational policy is engaging with sustainability issues as well as existing sustainability policy discourse in education across provincial Ministries of Education, Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC), and a range of PSE institutions
  • Theme 2. Community Engagement examines practices and experience of sustainability in education through community engagement across multiple sectors. Work involves (1) a national survey and (2) in-depth site analyses, both of which will offer situated community understandings of sustainability uptake in education, informing our understanding of relationships between sustainability policy and practice in the Canadian education system
  • Theme 3. Knowledge Mobilization mobilizes new knowledge and best practices regarding sustainability in education to impact existing policy and practice. This theme tracks organizational learning within SEPN, develops situated models of exemplary sustainability policy and practice, and mobilizes models through engagement of educational institutions and communities to impact policy and practice across the country

SEPN’s overarching objective is to examine and enable the evolution of sustainability policy and practice in Canadian EC-12 and PSE. SEPN’s outcomes include:

1) Creating innovative scholarly knowledge through situated and collaborative policy analysis:

  • Sustainability censuses: examined high level sustainability initiatives in 220 accredited PSE, 13 provincial/territorial Ministries of Education, and 389 K-12 school divisions across Canada.
  • Policy content analysis: examined policy documents from 13 ministries of education and a sample of 50 PSE institutions to identify key themes, priorities, links to broader government policy, articulation of priorities in relation to sustainability, approaches to sustainability, policy mobility, and points of tension among approaches.
  • Indigenous education: examined K-12 (complete) and PSE (in progress) Indigenous-administered education engagement with sustainability education.
  • National survey: explored experiences with sustainability uptake in Canadian EC-12 and PSE education, including barriers and facilitators.
  • Site analyses: examined engagement with sustainability in education policy and practice, with a focus on exploring the relationships between policy and practice. Comparative qualitative case studies have been conducted in 6 PSE institutions, 6 Ministries of Education, 11 school divisions, and 22 K-12 schools in Canada and Australia.

2) Mobilizing new models of exemplary sustainability policy and practice and enable application to decision-making in environmental sustainability education and practice in educational institutions: Integrative data analysis during which SEPN will develop models of exemplary educational policy and practice to further sustainability, and engage educational institutions and communities to impact policy and practice.

3) Providing innovative training and mentoring: Students have internationally-renowned academics on supervisory committees, leading publications, being central members of SEPN’s research team, presenting at conferences, and attending SEPN’s annual meetings and writing retreats. Graduate students are also paired with partner organizations (Knowledge Mobilization Liaison Program) to discuss research results and knowledge mobilization.

4) Enabling Network participatory organizational learning: This ongoing evaluation examines SEPN’s organizational strengths; maps existing and developing partnerships; and identifies information sharing, problem solving, and resource development dynamics.

5) Creating an ongoing interdisciplinary and multi-sector national network: SEPN has developed relationships with key stakeholders across the globe as a result of the project.

6) Fostering increased interdisciplinary and multi-sector knowledge of Canadian environmental issues and help develop greater sustainability in communities: SEPN’s engagement tools include our website, social media accounts, plain-language research briefs and infographics, news releases, scholarly articles, regular conferences, and face-to-face meetings with stakeholders to foster uptake of our research results.

6. Project status
On Going
SEPN is in the process of completing data collection for its Site Analyses research. Integrative analysis of data collected throughout the project will take place in the 2016-2017 academic year. Extensive knowledge mobilization will be carried out in 2017-2018, during which time SEPN’s research results will be shared with a variety of stakeholders across the formal Canadian education system.
8. Tagging