Origin and background

The LORET step-by-step methodology was invented by Leif Östman and Staffan Svanberg in 2004, while working on a project on education for sustainable development in Mongolia. Since then it has been used in many countries in Asia, Africa, South-America and recently also in Europe, for instance in the context of the SEAS project

The history behind LORET

The spark to develop LORET originates from a meeting with the vice-minister of education in Mongolia. While discussing a project on education for sustainable development, he surprised us by saying: “Mongolia is performing excellently in the world rankings of students’ mathematical competencies. Yet, it looks like mathematics does not really allow us to calculate the good life as we are struggling with a lot of challenges in our local communities. Therefore I want to urge you, in this project, to take this into account in everything you do. Make sure that education for sustainable development becomes a trigger to stimulate the achievement of curriculum goals, but also to engage with these challenges in the local communities.”

Thus, the balance between engagement with societal problems and the realisation of pedagogical aims and objectives became the guiding principle of the LORET methodology. Through working with teachers in Mongolia and later in many other countries, LORET has been continuously further developed and fine-tuned into the step-by-step procedure presented here.

Challenge based – education

LORET supports teacher teams in so-called challenge-based education. It is designed with a focus on making didactical choices and plans in order to engage students in an educative inquiry into locally relevant sustainability problems, including developing ideas for solutions and conducting problem-solving experiments. Working with real-world problems in the classroom offers unique pedagogical opportunities. Not only does it offer students the chance to acquire specific knowledge, insight and skills; it also fosters creativity, experiences of being able to make a difference and space for engagement and commitment. Furthermore, the students can experience how different people may each have their own idea of how they can / want to solve this problem. Engaging students in the quest for solutions hence enables educative moments that would not emerge during theoretical lessons or mere reflections in classroom discussion where no ‘real’ challenge is at stake. When dealing with real-world problems, what is said and done is not non-committal. One has to find a solution together. Not everyone thinks the same, there may be resistance. And finally, the work of the students results in something that is practically useful which in itself is more satisfying than if one sticks with the theory.

As such, LORET is well-suited to implement ‘open schooling’ initiatives focused on sustainability challenges in collaboration with local community actors. Open schooling connects teaching and learning in schools to practices, concerns and engagement outside the school, in families and communities. LORET is currently being used in open schooling initiatives in the context of the SEAS-project as well as the Formas-funded project ‘Open schooling for sustainable cities and communities’.