, Volume 43, Issue 2, pp 733-754,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 14 Apr 2012

Identifying Non-Sustainable Courses of Action: A Prerequisite for Decision-Making in Education for Sustainable Development

Abstract

Students are faced with a multitude of decisions as consumers and in societal debates. Because of the scarcity of resources, the destruction of ecosystems and social injustice in a globalized world, it is vital that students are able to identify non-sustainable courses of action when involved in decision-making. The application of decision-making strategies is one approach to enhancing the quality of decisions. Options that do not meet ecological, social or economic standards should be excluded using non-compensatory strategies whereas other tasks may require a complete trade-off of all the evidence, following a compensatory approach. To enhance decision-making competence, a computer-based intervention study was conducted that focused on the use of decision-making strategies. While the results of the summative evaluation are reported by Gresch et al. (International Journal of Science Education, 2011), in-depth analyses of process-related data collected during the information processing are presented in this paper to reveal insights into the mechanisms of the intervention. The quality of high school students’ (n = 120) metadecision skills when selecting a decision-making strategy was investigated using qualitative content analyses combined with inferential statistics. The results reveal that the students offered elaborate reflections on the sustainability of options. However, the characteristics that were declared non-sustainable differed among the students because societal norms and personal values were intertwined. One implication for education for sustainable development is that students are capable of reflecting on decision-making tasks and on corresponding favorable decision-making strategies at a metadecision level. From these results, we offer suggestions for improving learning environments and constructing test instruments for decision-making competence.