“I think they are irresponsible”: Teaching Sustainability with (Counter)Narratives in the EFL Classroom

Publikation: Beiträge in ZeitschriftenZeitschriftenaufsätzeForschungbegutachtet


Narratives and counter-narratives play a critical role in cultural learning and can fundamentally shape how foreign language learners construct and make sense of cultural images (Bruner; Warner). Perhaps one of the most instructive examples in this regard is the discourse on sustainable development, defined as economic, social, and environmental “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (UNWCED). Climate change communication research has long acknowledged the impact of narrative structure, theoretical and ideological framing, and audience appropriacy to communicate effectively sustainability-related messages and inspire climate issue engagement (Roser-Renouf and Maibach). The approaches to sustainable development in Germany and the United States differ considerably, as do their perceptions on both sides of the Atlantic.
In this article, we first introduce the Going Green project along with its pedagogical rationale and a discussion of cultural learning in this setting. In so doing, we focus on the role of mainstream vs. counter-narratives of sustainable development in the U.S. and pedagogic approaches to teaching them in the EFL classroom. In order to contextualize some of the potential challenges of such an approach, we report a questionnaire survey of previous project participants’ perceptions and preconceptions of sustainable development in the U.S. The reported data illustrate that learners are often unaware of non-mainstream publics and the impact of the local and state government-levels to support sustainable development in the U.S. We close by discussing the role of such counter-narratives in the teaching of culture and how they are implemented in the Going Green curriculum.
ZeitschriftAmerican Studies Journal
PublikationsstatusErschienen - 2020

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