Critical studies

The primary aim of research in the critical paradigm is individual and/or social transformation. Studies using a critical paradigm are few in primary education, and those that focus on children are even fewer. A New Zealand study of children aged 11-12 sought to empower students by explicitly teaching environmental and social knowledge and action skills to advocate for the sustainability of a lake's ecosystem (Birdsall, 2010). Three different lenses are used to examine the knowledge children developed and their subsequent actions, including types of knowledge, understandings of sustainability and type of actions taken. A three part model is proposed to assist students to learn about the nature of action enabling them to work towards potential solutions for complex environmental issues. An action research study using participatory planning methods with Greek children aged 9-12 used storytelling, photography and environmental drama methods (Tseverini,

2011). The children developed planning visions to take action at local government level. Finally, a New Zealand study engaged students, staff and community members (including professional practitioners) in an architectural co-design project that resulted, after four years, in a built classroom (Wake & Eames, 2013). The researchers collected children's participatory and co-design examples and found that sustainability co-design projects with children lead to improved outcomes for all participants as well as promoting authentic and relevant sustainability learning. Children in these studies are visible to the extent that they are able to design their own inquiries. Often within the critical paradigm it seems that adults decide what needs to be achieved within standard discourses of environmental and sustainability goals and the children are co-opted to adult agenda.

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