Changes in human activities and social systems are critical to mitigating climate change and creating transformations to sustainability. People everywhere will need to learn how to create new forms of human activity and new social systems that are more sustainable and socially just. The need for more radical forms of learning-centred transformation is increasingly recognized in transformations to sustainability discourse. Yet these approaches to learning remain under-developed and under-theorized and limited research has been done on this type of learning, or on how such learning emerges or can be expanded to strengthen agency for sustainability transformations at multiple levels.
Working with and across civil society, youth, academic, government and community partners across nine countries in diverse areas that are vulnerable to arising impacts at the climate energy-food-water security and social justice nexus, the project aimed to 1) initiate, 2) frame and 3) investigate expansive, transgressive approaches to learning in selected community sites in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Europe. The project also aimed to develop theory, methodology and practice, especially transgressive learning theory and practice and generative, interventionist, learning-centred research methodologies.
Local learning actions and networked learning actions formed the focus of two different types of case studies. The case sites were identified in consultation with participating communities and organisations, who worked with T-learning researchers to (1) co-define matters of concern, 2) identify potentially catalytic focus areas or practices for further expansive learning within collaborating communities of co-researchers, 3) develop situated T-learning methodologies for learning-led change, and 4) undertake reflexive reviews of these processes of learning with emphasis on observing and commenting on power relations, contextually relevant debates around T-learning (e.g. pluralism, decolonial sensibilities, complexity etc.) and sustainability outcomes emerging in practice. A small summative methodological booklet was developed to capture the essence of some of the methodologies for T-learning praxis as developed in the project sites.
All of the case studies have contributed new insights, methodology and models for T-learning. All also showed evidence of practical outcomes for communities and sustainability, for example in the Mekong Delta networks of ‘scientific farmers’ emerged that are mobilising locally engaged and informed action for climate change adaptation. One of the South African T-learning case studies (‘Amanzi / Water for Food’) has impacted on the lives of students, lecturers, women and youth farmers, and is informing a new model for Vocational Education and Training in Africa, while in Colombia a vibrant bio-regional network of T-learning co-researchers contributed to substantive transformations in eco-village praxis. In the Netherlands transitions to local food systems are being informed by t-learning processes. In total, the project worked directly with approximately 3200 people in various co-engaged T-learning processes in the nine countries.
Find out more on the T-LEARNING website.
Highlights of T-LEARNING outputs
Generative applied dissertations/thesis projects and their outputs
Masters and PhD projects emerging from the T-LEARNING project which produced pedagogies, built networks, created educational materials, and contributed to wellbeing and responded to injustices in local communities, for example:
- Injairu Kulundu: Not Yet Uhuru. Not Yet Uhuru! Attuning to, Re-imagining and Regenerating Transgressive Decolonial Pedagogical Praxis Across Times. Rhodes University, South Africa. Co-created 20 Songs, Films, Creative pedagogies/practices for decolonial education, and produced a novel theoretical innovation in liberatory African pedagogies, as well as a youth network.
- Thomas Macintyre: Transgressive Learning and Ontological Politics in Colombia. Development of a course, bio-regional network, and several t-learning practices.
- Gibson Mphepho: Informal learning by rural women in the Lake Chilwa Basin, Malawi, towards coping and adaptation to climate variability and climate change: Informal learning pedagogies for indigenous knowledge and a wide range of agriculture demonstration practices and a youth network
T-Learning Knowledge commons pedagogies
The T-learning project developed the Living Aulas and the Pluriversity for Stuck Humans knowledge commons pedagogies: Pedagogical t-learning process for innovation for ECRs and other practitioners and activities. Outputs included:
- Tarot Paper: From academic to political rigour: Insights from the ‘Tarot’ of transgressive research
- Queer Eco-pedagogies chapter: McGarry, D., Weber, L., James, A., Kulundu, I., Amit, S., Temper, L., … & Khutsoane, T. (2021). The pluriversity for stuck humans: a queer, decolonial school eco-pedagogy. In Queer Ecopedagogies: Explorations in Nature, Sexuality, and Education. Springer.
- Tiny Book Library/pedagogy
- McGarry (2021) Suitably Strange Practice pedagogy/paper; Suitably Strange objects, metaphors & stories that re-imagine learning, activism & justice (submitted)
- Weber, L. et al (2021) Living Aulas paper (in progress)
Special Issue on T-Learning for the journal Sustainability (2020)
- The Special Issue was edited by Heila Sisitka and Stefan Bengttson (post-doc on the project) and included a collection of papers from case studies and theoretical papers exploring Transgressive Learning and Transformations to Sustainability. In addition to over 56 (at last count) peer reviewed t-learning academic papers, the Journal carried a theoretical review of and orientation to T-learning (Bengttson, 2020) and a number of ‘final papers’ which shared aspects of the T-learning case study reports from the project sites in Sweden, South Africa, Colombia and the Netherlands, India, Zimbabwe, and Vietnam.
Global conference contributions
- T-learning practitioners participated in several conferences, workshops and symposiums. Three contributions stand out. These include the Seedbeds of Transformation conference and The Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA) Conference. In both conferences Prof. Lotz-Sisitka offered the keynote address, and many t-learning practitioners made significant contributions through workshops and presentations. Furthermore, two T-learning ECRs, Injairu Kulundu & Dylan McGarry, with leadership from senior T-learning researcher Dr. Million Belay, designed and shaped the AFSA conference on t-learning pedagogies and practices. Several papers emerged from these two conferences, as well as policy input (see Output 8) as well as producing a summary document on 10Iinsights for SDGs in Africa. Professor Heila Lotz-Sisitka and Professor Arjen Wals were also invited to offer keynotes at the European Conference on Educational Research in Hamburg, which is the second largest education conference globally.
Academic substance and theoretical development
- As mentioned above, the programme overall made a massive contribution to academic resources on t-learning. This includes theoretical papers, philosophical reflections and then many case studies. The first three theoretical publications of the T-learning project (Lotz-Sisitka et al., 2015, 2016 and Peters & Wals, 2016) made significant impact. Dimensions of the theoretical landscape that opened up include: a) Multi-level expansive transgressive learning research (Mukute; Pesanayi), b) generative systems science research (Tuan) c) transgressive research in scholar activism and network building (Macintyre and Chaves, Belay) involving transgressive research drawing in and on ICTs and creative praxis, arts-based methodologies and decolonial practice (McGarry, Kulundu, James, Burt, Macintyre and Chaves, Mphepo, Belay, Kuany).
T-learning Open Source Archive
- The T-learning website was transformed into an open source archive of all of the T-learning materials,outputs, publications, new processes and activities.
Information & Communication Technologies (ICT) – Mobile T-learning instruments
- The T-learning project has produced two mobile transgressive learning instruments, including the Food4 Us app in South Africa and the Youth-based monitoring of the SDGs app in India. These apps produced insights into how apps can be used for mobilizing community learning and networks, sharing materials/resources and offering pedagogies and t-learning practices, and much has been learned about mobile learning from these two ‘mobile learning T-learning experiments’.
- T-learning researchers have been involved with several policy processes. The T-learning team have made significant contributions to the UNESCO Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) 2030 policy, with Profs Arjen Wals and Heila Lotz-Sisitka playing a leading role, which contributed to the inclusion of a strong focus on transformative learning in the UNESCO ESD for 2030 Roadmap. Empatheatre T-learning research led by T-learning researcher Dylan McGarry engaged national drug policy on harm reduction, with running tribunals in Parliament to national drug policy events. T-learning processes developed through Empatheatre have gone on to contribute to national and international policy processes in marine governance (national marine spatial plan working group, Marine Protected Areas working group, Small Scale Fisheries policy, and the UN Oceans committee on human rights and the environment) through the One Ocean Hub project. The T-learning legacy also exists in active methodologies that are now being used in Colombian regional governance, through the work of Martha Chaves and in food system policy by Million Belay.
Catalytic contributions to diversity in scholar activism
- T-Learning, in its own right, and in collaboration with ACKNOWL-EJ, has developed transgressive and transformative practices for scholar activism. These have emerged as new networks such as the Coastal Justice Network in the One Ocean Hub, to the Transformative Education for Sustainable Futures Network, and the Bio-Regional Network for eco-justice activists in Colombia. From this the Tarot Paper, as well as the Code of Practice, and T-learning ethics of care methodologies, pedagogies and theory have contributed significantly to pioneering a new action research landscape in scholar activism. T-learning ethics were taken up by the One Ocean Hub which produced a Code of Practice which has gone on to inform several other scholar activist research networks. The work with ACKNOWL-EJ in further developing practices for political rigour, as well as new theories and resources, is ongoing.
Development of networks and contributions to Social Ecological Justice for communities
- The T-Learning research and researchers have contributed significantly the development of solidarity networks in Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Colombia South Africa, Vietnam, Malawi, India and the Netherlands. These include the organic farmers networks in Zimbabwe, the bio-regional network in Colombia which is further developing eco-cultural practices. Other networks include water justice and food sovereignty networks in South Africa, youth networks in South Africa and India, the Harm Reduction network In South Africa, the Lekkernassuh food system network in the Netherlands and the scientific farmers network in Vietnam. The networks are important social learning mechanisms for co-learning and linking a diversity of actors around praxis.
Courses and educational resources
- The T-Learning community has produced several courses, trainings, summer schools, workshops and educational resources. From the Changing Practices Course in South Africa working with Water Activists, to the Empatheatre/STAND Summer School providing training in Empatheatre methodology. The Sustainability Starts with Teachers (SST) project has had reach across South Africa and beyond. The Colombian CASA course has similarly expanded the initial work done in the bioregional contexts. A student book in Vietnamese as a learning material for studying ESD at Universities in Vietnam was produced. A creative practice and participative research short course hosted by the ELRC and the Political Rigour Collage workshop series facilitated by t-learning and ACKNOWL-EJ researchers in 5 different countries are other courses flowing from the T-learning research and praxis.