School-community learning partnerships

Eighteen case studies of successful learning partnerships have been conducted in and around Melbourne, Brisbane, the Sunshine Coast, Townsville and Cairns.  Each case study has been written in three phases through student, teacher and community workshops using the Most Significant Change Technique.

An analysis of the case studies is being undertaken (i) to analyse patterns of approaches and outcomes of the range of existing school-community learning partnerships for sustainability; (ii) to identify the factors that are facilitating and limiting the enhancement of educational as well as social and natural capital outcomes of different approaches to school-community learning partnerships; (iii) to identify principles for the establishment and management of effective learning partnerships; (iv) to identify the capabilities required of the different stakeholders in building effective community learning partnerships for sustainability and the associated learning processes that can assist in developing these capabilities; and (v) to identify the factors that influence the adoption of the lessons learned about effective community learning partnerships for sustainability.

The project is in its third year and researchers presented findings at the World Environmental Educators Congress (2011) are currently analysing the results, and finalising a guide-book of good practice.

The Victorian project involved conducting 16 case studies across schools, looking at the sustainability partnerships that they conduct with their communities. The schools were nominated by our partner organisations as ones who were already operating successful partnerships. Our researchers used the ‘Most Significant Change’ technique to gather the case study data, conducting separate focus groups with school staff, students and partners (Dart & Davies 2005). A story was created about what each group thought they had done and the benefits obtained. These stories were then shared between all three groups so that they could see the different perspectives and learn from each other. The results of the combined reflection were written up as a case study story that others could read.  The case studies were shared on a closed Ning social networking site which enabled dialogue to happen on various themes.

From all of this data researchers have extracted the participants’ advice and recommendations about how to develop and implement effective School–Community Learning Partnerships for Sustainability (SCLPfS) and put together “Conversations in School Community Learning Partnerships – A Guidebook“.


The following partner organisations also took part in the research by suggesting case study sites and providing volunteer researchers:

Sustainability Victoria (SV), Centre for Education and Research in Environmental Strategies (CERES), South East Councils Climate Change Alliance (SECCCA), Foundation for Young Australians (FYA), Independent Schools Victoria (ISV) and Yarra Ranges Council (YRC).

In particular, the following volunteer researchers contributed to the case studies:

Eric Bottomley from CERES, Julie Harris from SV, Bridgid Soames from Victorian Association of Environmental Education, Rosalyn Black and Melissa Ibrihim from FYA.

It is also acknowledged that the following Queensland researchers undertook a parallel study:

Dr Sharn Rocco, Dr Margaret Gooch, and Assoc. Prof Hilary Whitehouse – James Cook University.

Samantha Willcocks, Glorianne Porter, and Assoc. Prof Debbie Heck – University of the Sunshine Coast.

Dr Jo-Anne Ferreira, Vicki Keliher, and Lisa Ryan – Griffith University.


Start By 1 January 2009
Completed By 30 June 2012
Funding ARC Linkage Grant
Outcomes Details of the project including an electronic copy of the Guide Book, all Victorian case study stories and other information about publications will be available by June 2012 at the project web site
Researcher(s) Susan Elliott, Jodi-Anne Smith, Leone Wheeler, Roberto Guevara, John Fien, Jo Lang, Annette Gough
Program Sustainable Urban and Regional Futures
Location(s) Melbourne – Australia