9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN12 Environment and Society

2009-09-05 11:00:00 2009-09-05 12:30:00 Saturday, 5 September 11:00 - 12:30 Education for Sustainability and Social Learning Building I, Auditório J.J. Laginha

Experiencing the Global Dimension of Sustainability: Intercultural Dialogue and Competence Development in International E-Learning Settings

Sustainable development requires international and intercultural dialogue about possible social transitions towards sustainability. Without communication and exchanging ideas and approaches on a global level, it will not be possible to cope with problems of unsustainability in an adequate manner. Thus, sustainable development will only be realisable if as many people as possible are actively involved. Consequently, the Agenda 21 points out education and communication as key factors of sustainable development.

The fundamental transformations in terms of sustainable development require a far-reaching change of consciousness in individuals. This can only be brought about by learning (cf. Vare and Scott, 2007). In order for individuals to be in a position to engage with sustainability-related issues, a change of perspective in education is required, a reorientation towards 'Education for Sustainable Development' (ESD).

ESD aims at developing competencies that enable individuals to participate in socio-political processes and hence to contribute to shaping the society they live in towards sustainable development (e.g. Bormann and de Haan, 2008). Addressing global issues and getting involved in international and intercultural communication and cooperation processes can be seen as important elements of ESD (cf. de Haan et al., 2008; Selby, 2003). However, few learning settings can be found that offer and stimulate an immediate and equal dialogue between learners from the North and the South.

Given this background, this paper asks if learning about sustainability in international e-learning settings involving students from the North and the South supports the students' competence development. Research is done on the international virtual seminar 'Sustainable Development in Europe and Latin America', held by the Leuphana University of Lüneburg in the summer term 2009, which involved participants from Chile, Mexico, Peru, and Germany.

Results show how students experience the global dimension of sustainability and improve their competencies crucial for international communication and cooperation in terms of sustainable development. Furthermore, the main challenges they are facing during the learning process become apparent.