Social Learning for Sustainability: Advancing Community-Based Inquiry and Collaborative Learning for Sustainable Lifestyles

In Responsible Living:Concepts, Education and Future Perspectives, Editors: V. W. Thoresen; R. J. Didham; J. Klein & D. Doyle.
Book Chapter

The pursuit of sustainable lifestyles is one that occurs simultaneously
at individual, collective and societal levels. Education for sustainable development
(ESD), and the offshoot education for sustainable lifestyles (ESL), has generally
targeted individual learning and behaviour change. Although, there are several
good examples of cooperative and collaborative learning for sustainability in both
formal and non-formal educational initiatives. This paper examines the processes
of social learning that occur in such collaborative learning cases. Social learning
theory has evolved through three distinct phases. The first phase was grounded
in the field cognitive psychology, and it provides an explanation of how individuals
learn from society or social observation. The second phase developed from
the field of organisational studies as an explanation of organisational learning and
how collective learning is achieved through an amalgamation of the individual
learning of group members. The third phase of social learning is currently evolving
as a combination of ecological and educational perspectives, and it aims to
explain how sustainability learning can occur collectively and as a society, i.e. for
social transformation. In this chapter, a comparative evaluation of five case studies
from the Regional Centres of Expertise on ESD in East Asia is conducted to
identify what are the social learning processes present across the cases. The main
features of community of practice theory are examined as the potential conditions
for establishing an effective learning community. The comparative case evaluation
demonstrates a high level of benefit in achieving effective social learning in such
sustainability initiatives which contributes to smooth implementation of new initiatives
as well as strengthening their overall efficacy and longevity.