An action research study exploring how three grade 9 teachers develop their understanding and practice of "education for sustainable development".
The purpose of this action research study was to explore how three Grade 9 teachers developed their understanding and practice of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) through the use of a participant-designed intervention. ESD may be simply understood as a concept that describes all educational activities concerned with developing an understanding of the relationships that exist among the issues of SD. ESD and SD are terms that hold many meanings. It is no wonder that teachers find it difficult to bridge their understanding and practice. Literature supports these ideas and also notes that the lack of awareness that teachers have about ESD is due to the poor attention it is given in school policy. This study suggests that self-directed professional development could address such a shortfall in schools. The action research study involved four steps of reconnaissanceplanning- action-reflection. These steps unfolded within three phases of development, namely: the pre-intervention phase, the intervention phase and the post-intervention phase. The ESD principles were used to identify the teachers’ understanding and practice of ESD during the pre- and post-intervention phases. During the intervention phase teachers as coresearchers were then responsible for designing an intervention that they thought would help develop their understanding and practice of ESD. This study was seen to employ coengaged professional development. The findings of this research served to inform teachers, ESD promoters, resource development workers and relevant UNESCO officials of the challenges and experiences facing teachers attempting to understand and practice a meaningful and much needed ESD. The findings also served to reveal the benefit that engaging teachers in action research and professional development has on teacher professional development. Findings suggest that teachers require certain conditions in order to engage in professional development. These conditions include: (1) Collaborative meetings in a neutral context within the framework of action research; (2) Verbal communication and sharing of ideas; (3) Sharing of resources and local media; (4) Opportunities for reflection; and (5) An outside facilitator. Teachers showed a great sense of empowerment as they displayed evidence of teacher efficacy. This research concludes that action research, reflective practice and self-directed professional development offer modes for ESD implementation that is empowering for teacher professional development.