The role and relevance of critical inquiry and information literacy in the context of sustainability

New article explores the interrelations between sustainability competences and research competences.

Within the context of competence-based higher education, and under influence of many sustainability declarations and charters addressing universities, competences for sustainable development have been defined and described. Also referred to as sustainability competences, they can be defined as the combination of knowledge, skills, attitudes and values that enable a person to cope with issues of sustainability, i.e. highly complex and uncertain matters. These competences often focus on system thinking, future thinking, emotional intelligence, normative aspects, strategic aspects and values.

In literature about sustainability competences, research competences and research based methods are often mentioned as a way to acquire sustainability competences. However, a thorough approach on how these two concepts could be linked, is often missing. In a new article, recently published in the International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, the interrelations between sustainability competences and research competences are focused upon.

The article tries to interlink sustainability competences and research approaches. It starts with a critical view towards the way competence-based education is being put into practice. Due to the fact that the competence concept has become too elastic, different definitions and interpretations have been used and mixed up, hence the discussion about competences became blurry. Nevertheless, when attention is paid towards the multiple organizational and procedural opportunities and threats, competences can offer valuable guidelines to integrate sustainability and research in the curriculum. The article recommends a truly holistic competence approach, and a (re-)framing of research competences and approaches within the concept of sustainability. In the context of sustainability, characterized by complexity and uncertainty, specific attention is required towards information literacy and critical inquiry.

The abstract of the article can be found below. Read the article on the website of International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, or download a post-print version on the publications page of this blog.

 

Abstract

Purpose – The overall purpose of this article is to explore how competences for sustainable development and research interrelate within a context of competence based higher education. Specific focus is oriented towards strengthening research competences for sustainability.

Design/methodology/approach – Following a hermeneutic-interpretive methodology, this article builds upon a critical literature review to demarcate the theoretical framework, and the in-depth analysis of a case study exploring the interrelations between both types of competences.

Findings – The article discusses current issues in the integration of competences, and explores the contribution of research based methods to acquire competences for sustainable development. The analysis shows that research skills are often mentioned to contribute to this acquisition, though from a general perspective, or from the sidelines of the learning process. A holistic view on how both concepts are linked is missing.

Research limitations/implications – First, the complex nature of competences and their integration in higher education could lead to difficulties in interpreting and analysing them. Second, the analysis is based on a single case study, limiting possibilities to generalise results. Third, this study is not looking at curriculum practices in these fields.

Practical implications – There is a need to holistically (re-)frame research competences within the concept of education for sustainable development, and to a wider extent, sustainable development.

Social implications – Framing research competences within the concept of sustainable development enables a thorough and ‘conscious’, rather than coincidental, acquisition of competences for sustainable development.

Originality/value – The originality of this article lies in the fact that there is little literature about the interrelations between competences for sustainable development and research competences.

 

Key words

competences for sustainable development, education for sustainable development, information literacy, research competences, higher education

 

Full reference of the article:

Lambrechts, W. and Van Petegem, P. (2016). The interrelations between competences for sustainable development and research competences. International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education 17 (6), pp. 776-795.

 

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