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Making climate change public? A dramaturgically inspired case-study of learning through transition management

Written by Katrien Van Poeck, Gert Goeminne.
Related to Sustainability Education.

This article reports on an in-depth case study aimed at understanding the process of public-formation around contested sustainability issues such as climate change. We analyse a so-called ‘transition arena’ established by an urban government in order to realise a climate neutral city through a ‘transition management’ process. Scrutinising this case, we are particularly interested in the interrelatedness of educational and political processes in such a non-formal learning setting. That is, we build on this empirical analysis so as to further conceptualise education’s role in tackling societal challenges.

Therefore, we combine a conceptual framework drawing on Noortje Marres’ distinction between ‘privatisating’ and ‘public-ising’ forms of issue formation with a dramaturgical analytical framework that puts the setting in which public participation takes place centre stage. This performative perspective allows us to grasp the co-production of public and issue, that is to say the concrete ways in which the design of a setting shapes and transforms not only the issue at stake but also the public involved in it.

Connecting our findings to recent theory development in (environmental and sustainability) education research allows us to conceptualise climate literacy and teaching and learning about global climate change as a political-educational process. The development of a climate literate public, we argue, cannot be limited to learning predefined answers but should rather enable people to think critically in relation to taken-for-granted norms by opening-up democratic spaces where people can discuss and discover options through the exploration, evaluation, and critique of emerging ideas and the creative contribution to their development.

Full reference

Van Poeck, K., Vandenabeele, J., Goeminne, G. (2016). Making climate change public? A dramaturgically inspired case-study of learning through transition management. International Journal of Global Warming. Special issue on ‘Climate Literacy and Innovations in Climate Change Education’


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