Science & Education

, Volume 25, Issue 3–4, pp 321–341 | Cite as

Towards Eco-reflexive Science Education

A Critical Reflection About Educational Implications of Green Chemistry


The modern world can be described as a globalized risk society. It is characterized by increasing complexity, unpredictable consequences of techno-scientific innovations and production, and its environmental consequences. Therefore, chemistry, just like many other knowledge areas, is in an ongoing process of environmentalization. For example, green chemistry has emerged as a new chemical metadiscipline and movement. The philosophy of green chemistry was originally based on a suggestion of twelve principles for environment-friendly chemistry research and production. The present article problematizes limitations in green chemistry when it comes to education. It argues that the philosophy of green chemistry in the context of education needs to be extended with socio-critical perspectives to form educated professionals and citizens who are able to understand the complexity of the world, to make value-based decisions, and to become able to engage more thoroughly in democratic decision-making on sustainability issues. Different versions of sustainability-oriented science/chemistry education are discussed to sharpen a focus on the most complex type, which is Bildung-oriented, focusing emancipation and leading to eco-reflexive education. The term eco-reflexive is used for a problematizing stance towards the modern risk society, an understanding of the complexity of life and society and their interactions, and a responsibility for individual and collective actions towards socio-ecojustice and global sustainability. The philosophical foundation and characteristics of eco-reflexive science education are sketched on in the article.



Jesper Sjöström thanks the participants in the EU-project PARRISE (FP7; grant agreement 612438) for inspiring discussions. Vânia Zuin thanks the Coordination for the Improvement of Higher Education Personnel (CAPES-Brazil) and the National Counsel of Technological and Scientific Development (CNPq-Brazil; No. 311000/2014-2) for their support.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jesper Sjöström
    • 1
  • Ingo Eilks
    • 2
  • Vânia G. Zuin
    • 3
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Science-Environment-Society, Faculty of Education and SocietyMalmö UniversityMalmöSweden
  2. 2.Department of Biology and Chemistry, Institute for Science Education (IDN)University of BremenBremenGermany
  3. 3.Department of ChemistryFederal University of São Carlos (UFSCar)São CarlosBrazil
  4. 4.Department of Chemistry, Green Chemistry Centre of ExcellenceThe University of YorkHeslington, YorkUK

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