One of the major challenges of our time is to chart a course for a carbon-neutral, socially responsible society. Although it is necessary, there are many hurdles along the way – and it poses new challenges for vocational education. Teachers at vocational schools have a key role in educating the next-generation workforce in responsible and sustainable behaviors. This not only involves fundamental changing mindsets and identifying opportunities to introduce sustainable practices to a multitude of professional fields, but also nothing less than the overhaul of an education system in which, until now, sustainability has played a minor role. But how can motivated teachers communicate and exchange ideas on ways to address sustainability in the classroom? With an eye to making vocational education more forward looking, how can they work together to improve teaching? The Sinsheim-based Steinbeis Innovation Center for Logistics and Sustainability looked at these questions as part of an initiative called Energy Efficiency: Logistics. In cooperation with a project at Leuphana University Lüneburg’s called BBS future 2.0, it shows how sustainability can find its way into vocational education. Both projects are funded by the German National Environment Foundation (DBU).
Motivated teachers must have a forum for sharing ideas about their classes. But here is where the problems begin: Where do I find colleagues who are willing to discuss ways to integrate sustainability into the classroom? How can I present my ideas, concepts and materials quickly and receive feedback from colleagues at the same time? Is it even worth it, since communicating with colleagues also means more work for me? Professor Dr. Andreas Fischer of Leuphana University Lüneburg has a quick answer to the question of whether sharing ideas with colleagues actually means more or less work: In the long run it is more effective for teachers to network, because they can profit from others’ knowledge and experience. That is why he initiated BBS future 2.0. Its objective is to build a cross-regional network of vocational schools with a focus on sustainability. Using a Moodle-based community website, teachers can discuss the integration of economic, environmental and social issues in the classroom and in educational development.
The Energy Efficiency: Logistics initiative launched by Jens-Jochen Roth, director of the Steinbeis Innovation Center for Logistics and Sustainability, also leverages the benefits of networks. Here the primary focus is on creating a network of key players in businesses and schools with the aim of using workshops, excursions and courses to foster energy efficiency and sustainability in logistics. The two initiatives share the goal of transferring knowledge to promote education in sustainable development.
Instruction concepts and individual projects addressing sustainable development and sustainable logistics have long existed in the field of vocational education. However, until now, only rudimentary attempts have been made to systematically exchange information. The BBS future 2.0 online forum (bbs-futur2.leuphana.de) can now be used by teachers in schools all over Germany to work together in field-specific teams to develop targeted classroom materials. This allows teachers to feed innovative projects into the vocational education system – from the bottom up. As they use the networks, teachers receive professional support. This keeps the hurdles to online collaboration as low as possible. As part of BBS future 2.0, the Steinbeis Innovation Center for Logistics and Sustainability has taken on responsibility for topics related to sustainable logistics and is acting as moderator. At the second BBS future 2.0 conference in September 2014, a workshop was held to collect and share teacher experiences and ideas for vocational lessons within specific fields of sustainable development.
It is now up to the network users to collaborate and explore multifaceted approaches to future-oriented instruction – and to deploy the sustainability teaching materials in the classroom, thus paving the way for field-specific vocational education for sustainable development.