UNESCO promotes collaborative action research by teachers on the role of schools in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals
—A report from the 2nd National Project Workshop in Okayama City, Japan—
The 2nd National Workshop on UNESCO Associated Schools Network (ASPnet): Collaborative action research on the role of schools in achieving SDGs in Asia-Pacific project was held from 15 to 16 July 2022, in Okayama City, Japan. Among the participants were three teachers from pilot schools in Tokyo, Okayama, and Miyagi, two national researchers from Miyagi University and Okayama University, and five experts/ coordinators from the Tokyo-based Asia-Pacific Cultural Centre for UNESCO (ACCU) and UNESCO Bangkok.
Schoolteachers play a critically important role in transforming learners into agents of change, and in ultimately helping to promote among their learners the values making for a more just, peaceful and sustainable world. In this regard, ASPnet schools in Japan, Thailand and Viet Nam are participating in the collaborative action research project with support of the Government of Japan. The purpose of the collaborative action research was to actively engage lower secondary-level teachers to reflect deeply on their school-based Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) teaching practices, namely in relation to three key teaching components: 1) curricula (what competencies and topics to address); 2) pedagogy (how to develop these competencies); and 3) assessment (what results have been realized in cognitive, social-emotional and behavioural dimensions).
As a leading agency for education, UNESCO has been promoting holistic learning based on cognitive, socio-emotional and behavioural dimensions. The Workshop facilitated sharing of experiences and discussion of action research outcomes from the three schools in Japan.
On the first day of the Workshop, participants observed a science class in progress in the junior high school attached to the Faculty of Education of Okayama University. The class examined the topic of weather along the theme, ‘Let’s predict the future weather based on current weather information’. Provided with a set of weather data (e.g., amount of rainfall, predicted typhoon path, and total storm area), students discussed how they might interpret the given information, and what actions they might need to take next with their group members. The supervising teacher emphasized the importance of utilizing knowledge and skills already acquired in their studies, including real-life situations, such as deciding the timing of evacuations in severe weather situations. Teachers in other ASPnet schools engaged in discussion based on observing the class. Representatives of each participating school and institution then mutually introduced their focused activities.
On the second day of the Workshop, participants engaged in discussion around six given themes: 1) competency-based teaching; 2) transformation of students, teachers, and schools; 3) learning assessment; 4) capacity building of teachers; 5) teaching-learning and other activities under COVID-19; and 6) whole-school approach. Three teachers from the Junior High School attached to the Faculty of Education at Okayama University, Hashikami Junior High School, and Omori 6th Junior High School presented their school experiences and reflections based on the six themes. They shared a variety of unique activities, among them the type of ESD competency on which teachers were focused, exploring class activities (such as based on disaster prevention and climate change), international communication, and an SDGs calendar. As an example of learning assessment tools, Omori 6th Junior High School has piloted ‘ESD rubric’, but the teacher shared difficulties in assessing students’ improvement of competency across school subjects, and they suggested a need to assess and improve teachers’ competency for ESD at school-level. National researchers at Okayama University, Miyagi University, and ACCU who have been accompanying the action research processes in Japan also asked questions and shared advice. In the afternoon, participants had an opportunity to visit former Shizutani School (http://shizutani.jp/english/), a designated Japanese historic site as one of oldest public schools where children from farming families learned the teachings of Confucius from 1670 to 1870.
Based on this workshop, national researchers will prepare a final national project report which will be delivered at the 2nd regional meeting of the project, ‘UNESCO Associated Schools Network (ASPnet): collaborative action research on the role of schools in achieving SDGs in Asia-Pacific’. The regional meeting, which is planned from 5 to 8 September, in Tokyo, Japan, will bring together project teachers and researchers from Thailand and Viet Nam for a final exchange of experiences and development of tools which can contribute to enhancing teacher-led action research in ASPnet schools and other schools in Asia and the Pacific.
Reported by Kohei Uno, Intern, UNESCO Asia and Pacific Regional Bureau for Education, UNESCO Bangkok