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Crocodiles are scary

When two crocodiles swim towards each other, it is not until the last minute by their feeling the vibrations of the larger crocodile will the smaller one change its path to avoid confrontation. This would describe what happened to me as I started my week thinking that this would be the week I explore values. As I got closer to research I started to find a vast knowledge base and history from multiple perspectives from psychologists, sociologists, economists, and philosophers. It was not only the vastness but the diverseness of opinions on how to study values (Bozeman, 2007). I’ll share for the record some of the complexities discovered. 1. Typologies are numerous: • Instrumental or Prime (Dahl and Lindblom, 1953) • Means or Ends (Kalleberg, 1969) • Instrumental or Terminal (Rokeach, 1974) • Proximate, Remote, Intermediate, Ultimate (Van Dyke, 1982) • Egoistic, Altruistic and Biospheric values (de Groot and Steg, 2010) 2. There are differing ways of thinking about valuing, and ‘whether actions should be judged in terms of agent-relative intentions (expressive theory) or agent-neutral outcomes (consequentialism/utilitarianism)?’ 3. There were also deep complexities between values within a typology e.g. how to intrinsic and instrumental values relate to each other? 4. There were also considerations towards differences in individual values and how they relate to public/social values. A Sustainability consultant and colleague from EAD, kindly passed me the following definition from the United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development in a document containing the Bonn Declaration (April, 2009) which states: (http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0018/001873/187305e.pdf)   [Education for Sustainable Development] “ESD is based on values of justice, equity, tolerance, sufficiency and responsibility. It promotes gender equality, social cohesion and poverty reduction and emphasises care, integrity and honesty, as articulated in the Earth Charter. ESD is underpinned by principles that support sustainable living, democracy and human well-being. Environmental protection and restoration, natural resource conservation and sustainable use, addressing unsustainable production and consumption patterns, and the creation of just and peaceful societies are also important principles underpinning ESD.” When I read these, I do think almost anyone will agree – perhaps the issue is not an intellectual one but instead in practice living them! In the end I felt the ‘values theory’ crocodile was just too big to take on this week although the last typology seems a particularly relevant starting point for the sustainability context. But all was not lost after I discovered and read ‘Social Learning in Environmental Management’ (Keen, Brown & Dyball, 2005). Social Learning Theory (SLT) as depicted in this book is quite different to when I previously came across SLT when writing my discussion chapter on Coaching and Learning Theories within the MBA project. For me SLT from its roots and its popularity, Bandura pushed the lens of modeling by observation. I can attest to this perspective as ‘coachees practicing coaching’ was an example of modeling new skills from my previous research, nevertheless, I think SLT really can be much more, particularly for sustainability. Let me explain. Keen, Brown, & Dyball’s (2005) approach is to suggest that SLT supports sustainability through influencing the learning agenda, learning platforms and learning ethics, achieved through what they call the ‘five braided strands of social learning’ (p.8). These five strands cover reflective practice and reflection; understanding the systemic orientation of our relationship to each other, and the environment; integration and synthesis of perspectives e.g. pillars of sustainability; negotiation and collaboration between the diverse parties – their knowledge, their language, and their motives; and finally, rich participation which for me is captured by effective stakeholder engagement. (See AA1000SES http://www.accountability.org/aa1000ses for what I think is an example model where actors can strive towards the co-leaning and co-action end of participation spectrum.) Ok, but where does this fit with my research? The penny dropped for me in Chapter 11: The Ethics of Social Engagement: Learning to Live and Living to Learn by John Harris and Peter Deane. Firstly they questioned our whole relationship to our environment with respect to dominion i.e. most religious perspectives have us believing we are only transcending the earth to a better place (or not), that we are in some way superior to the rest of life, and should utilize the planets resources as we like; to which their point is this perspective kind of separates us from the environment, rather than being part of it. Secondly, they researched how immersion affected social learning for environmental students who went into the field and worked on projects together. Their findings suggest that learning was so much more powerful when compared to the classroom. One participant in the book comments: (note: this comment was posted a few decades from one of these field trips) “… the whole exposure to what was actually happening down there was one of those horrendously memorable experiences. Going to the actual mill and seeing those logs gobbled up in seven seconds really symbolized the power of how homo sampiens destroys.” (p. 202) Simply stated, research behind immersion in the real world offers tremendous opportunities for learning that may affect our values and behaviours, while in the classroom remains disconnected and offers less intensity and less opportunity to change people. This is where it hit me, ‘as my research is inside a virtual world – could my research simply be a waste of time?’ Just go out into the real world! Ouch – my first serious doubt. During the rest of my week I have been considering this point and have come to the following conclusions: 1. While the virtual world is not the real world it is still immersion, so there still might be usefulness here. 2. Sometimes the real world immersion is not possible i.e. looking at a disaster site like the 1984 gas disaster in India. (Link to SL: http://secondlife.com/destination/kronbelt – and credit for today’s blog image.) 3. Sometimes geography makes certain immersion field trips problematic or too costly 4. Perhaps if there is some benefit of the immersive world experience, where might it sit in comparison to the abstract classroom and real world immersion experience? Finally, it is not for me to assume at this early stage that immersion actually has the power to change the values of people i.e. my thesis is not yet set, and I am starting with the research question ‘can coaching in immersive worlds create value shifts towards sustainability?’ Proving this either way would be a contribution to knowledge – would it not? One last point this week is the issue of using the coaching approach to pedagogy. Keen, Brown, & Dyball’s works also covers within the reflection braid – Kolb’s Learning Cycle, and Argyris’s Learning Loops; both of which I referred to in my Coaching MBA Dissertation. I asked myself the question: is there any difference between the coaching approach to the social learning approach? My response is yes there is. Even though there will be overlaps – I believe the coaching model will combine ‘brain-based’ research, various adult learning theories, an emotional learning element e.g. ‘feeling the meaning’ (Walkerden, 2005, p181), a solution focus; and co-learning opportunities together to help facilitate positive change. So, I wrap my week up by resolving a couple of scares: Values is a big subject so I need to be sure it is values I am targeting as opposed to other perspectives e.g. knowledge; and Immersive worlds may offer a deeper learning experience than the traditional lecture or classroom, however, it is not for me to cling to any thesis at this stage – I only need to ask the question and prove its relevance :o). References in this blog entry. Bozeman, B., 2007. Public values and public interest : counterbalancing economic individualism, Georgetown University Press. de Groot, J.I. & Steg, L., 2010. Relationships between value orientations, self-determined motivational types and pro-environmental behavioural intentions. Journal of Environmental Psychology. Available at: http://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S0272494410000472. Keen, M., Brown, Valerie, A. & Dyball, R., 2005. Social Learning in Environmental Management Towards a Sustainable Future M. Keen, A. Brown, Valerie, & R. Dyball, Earthscan. Walkerden, G., 2005. Social Learning in Environmental Management Towards a Sustainable Future, Eds. M. Keen, A. Brown, Valerie, & R. Dyball, Earthscan.

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