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  • 1 Universitäty of Klagenfurt, Austria
  • | 2 University College of Teacher Education-Carinthia, Austria
  • | 3 Universitäty of Klagenfurt, Austria
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Presented: European Conference on Educational Research 2018

Proposal Information

The school network “Austrian Ecologisation of Schools Network (ECOLOG)” was developed in 1996. Overall coordination is ensured by the Institute of Instructional and School Development at the University of Klagenfurt in partnership with the Austrian Federal Ministry for Education. ECOLOG is based upon a participatory approach: Schools analyze the ecological, technical, and social conditions of their environment and, on the basis of these results, define objectives, targets, and/or concrete activities and quality criteria, to be implemented and evaluated. Students as well as all the other stakeholders of a school should be involved in a participatory way, and collaboration with authorities, businesses, and other interested parties is encouraged. ECOLOG is a national support system with the aim of promoting and integrating an ecological approach into the development of individual schools, and attempts are being made to embed the program in Austria’s federal states through regional networks (Rauch, 2016). Overall, over 500 schools with about 100,000 students are currently part of the Austrian ECOLOG-schools network. In 2017, ECOLOG has been selected within the framework of the OECD project “Innovative Pedagogies for Powerful Learning – Networks” among 25 projects worldwide for innovative approaches in teaching, learning, and education (http://www.oekolog.at).

Within the process of systemic school modernization, since the 1990s, networks have become increasingly attractive in educational context. Ideally, networks are conceived as an interface and effective means of pooling competencies and resources (OECD, 2003). As intermediate structures, they manage autonomy and interdependent structures and processes, and try to explore new paths in learning and cooperation between individuals and institutions (Rauch, 2013, 2016). Some of the basic aspects of educational networks are the mutual intention and goals (Lieberman & Wood, 2003), the principle of exchange (mutual give and take) and the win–win relationship (OECD, 2003), the coordination of exchange processes, cooperation, and learning (Dobischat, Düsseldorf, Nuissl, & Stuhldreier, 2006), and synergy effects through structural organization as an alternative to classic rationalization strategies characterized by the dismantling of structures (Schäffter, 2004).

Methods

The investigations are based on a mixture of qualitative and quantitative methods of empirical social research. The annual reports of ECOLOG schools as well as semi-structured interviews in ECOLOG schools (Fleiss, 2016; Rauch & Dulle, 2012; Ziener, 2017) and with members of ECOLOG regional teams (Ziener, 2017) are the main sources of information. These interviews were transcribed and analyzed according to the model of content analysis (Mayring, 2002). The ECOLOG schools included in interviews represent all school types, such as primary schools, secondary schools, higher secondary schools, as well as vocational schools and higher vocational schools. The annual reports make the achievements of ECOLOG schools visible. In particular, the qualitative analysis of the detailed description of the main project provides in-depth information. Furthermore, additional material produced by the schools (e.g., school website, teaching materials, press releases, and school folders) and the ECOLOG website were integrated in the analysis. The preliminary results were presented and discussed in the context of a workshop with representatives of the schools interviewed and other ECOLOG schools (Rauch & Dulle, 2012) and sent to the interviewee in order to confirm, revise, or complete the analysis (feedback loop; Fleiss, 2016; Ziener, 2017).

Conclusions

Success of the ECOLOG program is shown in different fields, especially the extension and improvement of ECOLOG-schools network (number of schools, cooperation partners, network meetings, and learning), school organization and school development as well as the implementation of Education for Sustainable Development (teaching and learning processes) in schools taking part in the ECOLOG program. The openness of the ECOLOG concept allows a wide range of issues to be included and fosters creativity. The impacts are seen in different areas, such as changes in teaching methods (e.g., more project work and social learning), the increased integration of health education (e.g., availability of healthy foods), ecological and social issues in different subjects (e.g., periodical topics), and measures for energy optimization of the school. Participation in ECOLOG results in an enhancement of a schools image and a further development of external relations such as those with the community, regional businesses, social, or cultural organizations (Fleiss, 2016; Rauch & Dulle, 2012; Ziener, 2017).

Moreover, these studies highlighted a number of factors that have been critical to the success as well as the challenges of the network: communication and exchange, team building, available resources (time, human, and financial), and continuity of support structures and networking processes. On one hand, ECOLOG is an active network due to the personal engagement of individual teachers. On the other hand, it is necessary to establish a culture of teamwork to enable the development of a sustainable school culture. This is a challenge for schools (Rauch & Dulle, 2012; Ziener, 2017). Communication has proved to be the central element allowing schools to produce a common understanding of Education for Sustainable Development.

References

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  • Fleiss, C. (2016). Bildung für nachhaltige Entwicklung im Kontext Schule und Inklusion [Education for sustainable development in the context of school and inclusion]. Klagenfurt, Austria: Erziehungswissenschaft und Bildungsforschung Institut.

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  • Lieberman, A., & Wood, D. R. (2003). Inside the national writing project. Connecting network learning and classroom teaching. New York, NY: Teacher College Press.

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  • Mayring, P. (2002). Einführung in die qualitative Sozialforschung [Introduction to qualitative social research]. Weinheim, Germany/Basel, Switzerland: Beltz.

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  • OECD. (2003). Schooling for tomorrow. Networks of innovation. Paris, France: OECD.

  • Rauch, F. (2013). Regional networks in education: A case study of an Austrian project. Cambridge Journal of Education, 43(3), 313324. doi:10.1080/0305764X.2013.818102

    • Crossref
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  • Rauch, F. (2016). Networking for education for sustainable development: The Austrian ECOLOG-schools programme. Educational Action Research, 24(1), 3445. doi:10.1080/09650792.2015.1132000

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  • Rauch, F., & Dulle, M. (2012). Auf dem Weg zu einer nachhaltigen Schulkultur—15. Jahre ÖKOLOG-Programm, 10 Jahre Netzwerk ÖKOLOG [Towards a sustainable school culture-15. Years ECOLOGY program, 10 years network ECOLOG]. Klagenfurt, Austria: Alpen Adria Universität.

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  • Schäffter, O. (2004). Auf dem Weg zum Lernen in Netzwerken–Institutionelle Voraussetzungen für lebensbegleitendes Lernen [On the way to learning in networks–institutional prerequisites for lifelong learning]. In R. Brödel (Ed.), Weiterbildung als Netzwerk des Lernens [Further education as network of learning] (pp. 2948). Bielefeld, Germany: Bertelsmann.

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  • Ziener, K. (2017). Das ÖKOLOG-Netzwerk: Begleitforschungsstudie in der Phase 2015 bis 2016 [The ÖKOLOG network: Accompanying research study in the period 2015 to 2016]. Klagenfurt, Austria: Alpen Adria Universität.

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    • Export Citation
  • Dobischat, R., Düsseldorf, C., Nuissl, E., & Stuhldreier, J. (2006). Lernende Regionen–begriffliche Grundlagen [Learning regions – Conceptional foundations]. In E. Nuissl, R. Dobischat, K. Hagen, & R. Tippelt (Eds.), Regionale Bildungsnetze [Regional education networks] (pp. 2333). Bielefeld, Germany: Bertelsmann.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Fleiss, C. (2016). Bildung für nachhaltige Entwicklung im Kontext Schule und Inklusion [Education for sustainable development in the context of school and inclusion]. Klagenfurt, Austria: Erziehungswissenschaft und Bildungsforschung Institut.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Lieberman, A., & Wood, D. R. (2003). Inside the national writing project. Connecting network learning and classroom teaching. New York, NY: Teacher College Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Mayring, P. (2002). Einführung in die qualitative Sozialforschung [Introduction to qualitative social research]. Weinheim, Germany/Basel, Switzerland: Beltz.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • OECD. (2003). Schooling for tomorrow. Networks of innovation. Paris, France: OECD.

  • Rauch, F. (2013). Regional networks in education: A case study of an Austrian project. Cambridge Journal of Education, 43(3), 313324. doi:10.1080/0305764X.2013.818102

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Rauch, F. (2016). Networking for education for sustainable development: The Austrian ECOLOG-schools programme. Educational Action Research, 24(1), 3445. doi:10.1080/09650792.2015.1132000

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Rauch, F., & Dulle, M. (2012). Auf dem Weg zu einer nachhaltigen Schulkultur—15. Jahre ÖKOLOG-Programm, 10 Jahre Netzwerk ÖKOLOG [Towards a sustainable school culture-15. Years ECOLOGY program, 10 years network ECOLOG]. Klagenfurt, Austria: Alpen Adria Universität.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Schäffter, O. (2004). Auf dem Weg zum Lernen in Netzwerken–Institutionelle Voraussetzungen für lebensbegleitendes Lernen [On the way to learning in networks–institutional prerequisites for lifelong learning]. In R. Brödel (Ed.), Weiterbildung als Netzwerk des Lernens [Further education as network of learning] (pp. 2948). Bielefeld, Germany: Bertelsmann.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Ziener, K. (2017). Das ÖKOLOG-Netzwerk: Begleitforschungsstudie in der Phase 2015 bis 2016 [The ÖKOLOG network: Accompanying research study in the period 2015 to 2016]. Klagenfurt, Austria: Alpen Adria Universität.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation

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