You are on page 1of 14

Being Relational

Thinking Systems
Educational Sustainability
EDSU Introduction to Educational Sustainability
Synchronous Seminar
Joy Kcenia O’Neil, Ph. D.
February 24, 2016

The Problem
• Complex issues such as global climate change,
population, social justice, biodiversity loss, economic
• Example: what is mono-cropping, how does it relate to
population, pollution, biodiversity loss, economic stability or

• These are called wicked problems or complex problems

Solution? Sustainability
• Revisiting our frames of reference
• Change in view from mechanistic parts to a relational
• Onion story

What does that mean?
• It means
• To view the world as an interconnected whole

So, what does education have to do
with it?
• Education can help us to reach sustainability personally,
locally, globally…
• AASHE: 748 institutions have registered to use the STARS
Reporting Tool

• We can include it in educational systems, business and
community systems and in learning systems

I’m on board! How do I educate for
• This is the tricky part. There are three ways…
• Current thinking in formal Western education is reductionist
and relies on studying disciplinary parts…not wholes
• Not only are we educated in this manner, we tend to
function in the world in this same manner….
• Sustainability is thinking in interconnections so that means
we need to come up with ways to think (epistemology) and
way of being in the world (ontology) differently
• We need to create pedagogies and environments that go
beyond mere knowledge acquisition

What’s wrong with knowledge
• Nothing...really. Acquiring knowledge is why we are here
in the first place
• It is HOW we acquire knowledge and WHAT we do with
that knowledge

Paradigms of educational
• Education about sustainability
• Transmission - Knowledge acquisition about problems and
solutions related to sustainability

• Education for sustainability
• Transaction - Taking action towards sustainability

• Education or learning as sustainability
• Transformation – Subsuming the first two this level is the
process and dynamics of relational change
• Read excerpt

Two ways to think about relationality
• 1. Epistemic shift of knowing relationality
• 2. Ontological shift in being relational

What is relational change?
Education as sustainability
• If sustainably is to view the world as an interconnected,
relational whole, then education or learning as
sustainably is to learn to view the world as a relational
interconnected whole
• This means we humans and non-humans are intraconnected
• Socially
• Ecologically

How does this go back to educational
• Build systems as change in which social and ecological
material matter
• Foster learning as change in which social and ecological
material matter

What kind of change?
• Emergent process of social and ecological change

So, how can we create opportunities
for educational sustainability?
• That is what you will be doing in your learning goals and
plans in this course
• A shift is how we do things in the community, business,

• Relationality is a state of being relational (Ontology)
• Systems thinking is to think in interconnected relations
• Sustainability is to interconnect and balance the three
• Educational sustainably is to educate as a relational
interconnected whole in response to educating in
disconnected parts for social and ecological change that
is viewed as interconnected activities