A summary of findings includes:
Training outcomes have shifted from ‘information’ to ‘transformation’, audience and topic diversity has increased:
Trainers are now required to include a wider scope of sustainability topics. The level of training has shifted from information or awareness raising to transforming participant understanding and achieving behavior change. The diversity of audiences engaged and topics taught by waste and water trainers have expanded to include broader sustainability issues such as climate change and energy efficiency.
Marketing and engagement methods are critical to successful Education for Sustainability (EfS):
Trainers reported the significant challenges they face in engaging their target audiences (including the people in their organisations) in sustainability issues. When they considered attending training themselves, they found it difficult to discern the level, focus and outcomes. Research revealed that poor descriptors, the pitch of training and insufficient communication about professional development opportunities contributed to low uptake in the past. Both trainers and their employers perceive that time and money has been wasted on poor quality or irrelevant professional development, however quality, targeted training is still sought.
Trainers’ roles and background skills are extremely diverse, often without EfS training:
Whilst many trainers have a deep understanding of sustainability issues they often do not have formal EfS or education qualifications. They are unlikely to have learnt EfS principles because this is a relatively new area. Many trainers do not have formal qualifications in EfS.
PD areas of most interest to trainers that relate to sustainability education were:
a. Building the business case for sustainability;
b. Sustainability issues and concepts related to their field;
c. Achieving action outcomes and behaviour change (including motivating people; identifying needs and structuring information for audiences; and community/business engagement skills);
d. Course and program evaluation techniques;
e. Critical and systems thinking;
f. Social media use and analysis.
Trainers were also very interested in gaining skills in more generic areas of:
g. Technical skills and knowledge about waste/water;
h. Strategic planning and project management.
The educational resources requested by trainers were:
i. Experiential learning activities (60%, 65)
j. Case studies (58%, 63)
k. Learning resources (53%, 58)
l. Practical trials (46%, 50)
m. Activities (44%, 48)
n. Field trips (44%, 48)
Making personal connections through the learning process was highly valued:
Trainers prefer face-to-face learning and are prepared to have this in combination with flexible online options so that people in disparate locations can participate. Peer-to-peer learning through networking and conference attendance is very important, as is the opportunity to be mentored by experts.
Accreditation for training was important but not essential:
Industry is more concerned with quality training that provides specific, meaningful knowledge and skills particular to trainers’ needs. This is especially so, given the lack of time that trainers have available to undertake PD.
Time, cost and gauging the value and relevance of training are the main barriers to uptake of professional development for both trainers and employers.
The research was undertaken in late 2013 by consultants Beth Akister and Laurel Freeland of Alchemy Living & Learning.