Applied Research : Pedagogy of the Transition

Pedagogy of the Transition

A subject to be tackled head-on

The wave has risen in the time of barely a year. First, with the report Raising awareness and the challenges of the ecological transition and sustainable development in higher education1 by Jean Jouzel and Luc Abbadie, published in February 2022. Secondly, with a guidance note from the French Ministry of Higher Education and Research, published in June 2023, which establishes a “common core of knowledge and skills” to be incorporated into undergraduate university courses. “Training for the ecological and social transition” is now officially on the agenda of French higher education establishments: a first step that could serve as a springboard for a broader social awareness of climate change and the challenges it poses for our way of life and how we inhabit our planet.

And yet, the very idea of “transition training” is based on what might appear to be a gamble. On the one hand, there is the objective emergency of reducing greenhouse gas emissions within a very short timeframe, given the scale of the change required. On the other hand, the educational enterprise has its own time and, as Dominique Cottereau suggests in his book Training for the environment, a broad responsibility? (Belin Editions, 2014)2, care must be taken to maintain the necessary distinctions between the type of work that can be expected of different generations. In concrete terms, says Cottereau, it is important not to try to assign responsibilities at an early age, especially when they may exceed the capacity to act of a certain age group, to avoid the paralysis that this surge of ambition. Training for transition is therefore an investment in future generations, at a time when the very idea of the future seems to be shrinking under the pressure of crucial deadlines for the continuation of human life on earth (as we know it).

Rethinking teaching methods in the Anthropocene Epoch

Transition training is not just about assimilating new knowledge: real-life experience remains an essential part of its transformative value. This experiential element is thematized by several pedagogical approaches. In the Campus de la Transition’s pedagogy, the word used is “head-body-heart” (an in-depth description of which can be found in the Pedagogy of the Anthropocene Epoch for a Great Transition – Springer, 20233). A head-body-heart pedagogy invites us to thematize knowledge about a subject as a source of learning but also experiences lived in an experimental environment, experiences that have both a physical and an emotional side.

The training on transition plays on the resonance between different dimensions of the person and their experience of a new relationship with the world.

The field of transition training is one where several types of activity intersect and in particular, in the practice of the Campus de la Transition trainers negotiating a training programme with partners (who may not share the same ideas about “transition training”); preparing to welcome the training groups; making the link with experiences such as living in an ecovillage; getting different groups of people involved in the multiple challenges of transition; listening and interacting during the “conversations between colleagues” which take place during the training sessions – conversations which are fertile ground because they take place in a context “other” than that of the workplace; supporting the assimilation by the participants of what is experienced at several levels in the context of the training; or again, the pedagogical reflection between trainers.

However, each of these activities has its own rhythm, which poses the challenge of arranging the times of these different activities so that they can resonate with each other, create a balance between them… and, in this way, lead to ‘highlights’ in learning.

What is a “highlight”? They can be of two types, either when the attention of a group becomes profound; or when an unexpected collaboration happens. For example, a group of teachers emerge from their training with a shared awareness that they hadn’t just “taken a diversion” for a few days in an ecovillage, but of having made real progress on issues that challenge their day-to-day professional experience, so that they can find new common ground on which to continue building once the training is over.

During these “highlights”, the researcher has the impression of having witnessed accelerations, which he would describe as as increases in the intensity of an activity in which the group is involved. However, such an acceleration is not to be understood as a “sprint imposed” from the outside, with a view to achieving the desired results. On the contrary, it’s an intensification from within, which can take the form of manifested by an explicit awareness, by an unexpected proposal finding a window of opportunity to blossom, or by an initiative welcomed by a sincere sharing of intentions among the participants. The acceleration is therefore an acceleration ‘through resonance’, to use the words of sociologist Hartmut Rosa in his book of interviews with researcher Nathanaël Wallenhorst, Spead up resonance (Le Pommier, 20224).

Acceleration through resonance therefore requires a multiplication of such intense moments, these training kairos. To achieve this, transition trainers must master the art of composing, in the context of a training course, the rhythms of different and complementary elements, such as: the existential questioning of each participant, the pre-existing dynamics in a group of colleagues taking part in a training course, or the activity of assimilating learning at several different levels of experience. In this report, based on the experience of the Campus de la Transition trainers, this ability is what we call the art of “giving time training

1 Rapport Sensibiliser et former aux enjeux de la transition écologique et du développement durable dans l’enseignement supérieur

2 L’éducation à l’environnement : L’affaire de tous? (Éditions Belin, 2014)

3 “Pedagogy of the Anthropocene Epoch for a Great Transition: A Novel Approach of Higher Education”, Cécile Renouard, Frédérique Brossard Børhaug, Ronan Le Cornec, Jonathan Dawson, Alexander Federau, David Ries, Perrine Vandecastele, Nathanaël Wallenhorst, Springer Cham, Jan. 2024

4 Accélérons la résonance (Le Pommier, 2022)

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