Guiding Principles of Transformative Education for Sustainable Development in Local School Organisations : Investigating Whole School Approaches through a School Improvement Lens

Sammanfattning: The importance of an education that empowers students to engage with real societal problems to promote a sustainable future is widely acknowledged. However, the organisational characteristics of schools that facilitate such education for sustainable development (ESD) have received little attention. This thesis aims to fill this research gap by contributing new knowledge on ways that school organisations can implement transformative ESD, while aligning with a whole school approach.Swedish upper secondary schools actively implementing ESD were selected for the study. The research design used a mixed-method approach developed from the field of school improvement research. Methods included semi-structured interviews with school leaders and questionnaire surveys for teachers. School leaders’ and teachers’ understanding of quality in their local school organisation was studied.The thesis identifies the guiding principles that school leaders and teachers found important for promoting transformative ESD. These include four principal quality criteria that need structural support through collegial meetings to establish a holistic idea of ESD, namely collaborative interaction and school development, student-centred education, cooperation with local society, and proactive leadership and long-term perspective. With the support of the guiding principles, the whole school organisation contributes to teaching and learning practices in ESD active schools.The two main contributions are 1) identification of the school organisation that provide firm ground for local implementation of transformative ESD, and 2) that the internal school organisation is a prerequisite for school collaboration with the surrounding society, which is a main goal of ESD, according to policy and theory. In the case of the latter, a student-centred approach in organising education was found to facilitate such links between education and the community, which is a main goal of ESD, according to policy and theory. The results may provide useful recommendations for schools and ESD implementation programmes.