International Review of Education

, Volume 63, Issue 6, pp 897–914 | Cite as

Transgressing the norm: Transformative agency in community-based learning for sustainability in southern African contexts

  • Heila Lotz-Sisitka
  • Mutizwa Mukute
  • Charles Chikunda
  • Aristides Baloi
  • Tichaona Pesanayi
Original Paper

Abstract

Environment and sustainability education processes are often oriented to change and transformation, and frequently involve the emergence of new forms of human activity. However, not much is known about how such change emerges from the learning process, or how it contributes to the development of transformative agency in community contexts. The authors of this article present four cross-case perspectives of expansive learning and transformative agency development in community-based education in southern Africa, studying communities pursuing new activities that are more socially just and sustainable. The four cases of community learning and transformative agency focus on the following activities: (1) sustainable agriculture in Lesotho; (2) seed saving and rainwater harvesting in Zimbabwe; (3) community-based irrigation scheme management in Mozambique; and (4) biodiversity conservation co-management in South Africa. The case studies all draw on cultural-historical activity theory to guide learning and change processes, especially third-generation cultural-historical activity theory (CHAT), which emphasises expansive learning in collectives across interacting activity systems. CHAT researchers, such as the authors of this article, argue that expansive learning can lead to the emergence of transformative agency. The authors extend their transformative agency analysis to probe if and how expansive learning might also facilitate instances of transgressing norms – viewed here as embedded practices which need to be reframed and changed in order for sustainability to emerge.

Keywords

community learning expansive learning transformative learning transformative agency education for sustainable development 

Résumé

Transgresser la norme : l’agentivité transformatrice dans l’apprentissage communautaire pour la viabilité en Afrique australe – Les processus d’éducation à l’environnement et au développement durable sont souvent orientés vers le changement et la transformation, et impliquent fréquemment l’émergence de nouvelles formes d’activité humaine. La façon dont ce type de changement découle de la démarche éducative et dont il contribue au développement d’une agentivité transformatrice dans les contextes collectifs est néanmoins peu connue. Les auteurs de l’article présentent quatre perspectives transversales de l’apprentissage expansif et du développement de l’agentivité transformatrice dans l’éducation communautaire en Afrique australe, à travers l’étude de communautés poursuivant de nouvelles activités socialement plus équitables et pérennes. Ces quatre cas d’apprentissage communautaire et d’agentivité transformatrice déploient les activités suivantes : 1) agriculture pérenne au Lesotho, 2) conservation des semences et récupération pluviale au Zimbabwe, 3) gestion communautaire du réseau d’irrigation au Mozambique, 4) cogestion pour la conservation de la biodiversité en Afrique du Sud. Ces études de cas s’appuient toutes sur la théorie historico-culturelle de l’activité (cultural-historical activity theory, CHAT) pour guider les processus d’apprentissage et de changement, notamment la troisième génération de la CHAT qui valorise l’apprentissage expansif en collectivité dans le cadre de systèmes interactifs d’activité. Les chercheurs en CHAT, dont les auteurs de l’article, argumentent que l’apprentissage expansif peut favoriser l’apparition d’une agentivité transformatrice. Les auteurs approfondissent leur analyse d’une agentivité transformatrice pour examiner si et comment l’apprentissage expansif peut aussi favoriser les circonstances dans lesquelles des normes sont transgressées – présentées ici comme les pratiques intégrées devant être recadrées et changées pour que puisse s’instaurer la pérennité.

Notes

Acknowledgements

The research in the case studies above was supported from various sources, including the South African Qualifications Authority, the South African Water Research Commission, the South Africa-Netherlands Partnership for Academic Development (SANPAD), the National Research Foundation SARChI Chair on Transformative Social Learning and Green Skills Learning Pathways, and contributes to the International Social Sciences Council Transformations to Sustainability T-learning programme focusing on Transformative, Transgressive Learning in Times of Climate Change.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature and UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Rhodes University Environmental Learning Research CentreRhodes UniversityGrahamstownSouth Africa
  2. 2.Association for Water and Rural DevelopmentRhodes UniversityGrahamstownSouth Africa

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