In 2005 the United Nations promoted the “decade of education for sustainable development” (2005-2014) and the UNESCO Italian Committee instituted the annual “week of education for sustainable development” to raise awareness about the necessity of a fairer and more respectful future for both human beings and environment. Nevertheless, the Italian Guidelines for the Curriculum in Secondary School – Key Stage 3 (2012 Edition) do not include the topic “sustainable food”.
Whereas, as proved by the scientific research, humans activities concerning food, its production, its transportation, its consumption and waste discharge are one of the most important causes of environmental pollution and therefore it is important to raise awareness and to understand which teaching methods might be the most effective for increasing debate, interest and willingness in order to promote environmental safety. It is fundamental to build an ecological conscience, especially in tomorrow's citizens: today's children.
The purpose of this study is to verify the opportunity to introduce this topic to the students, by transmitting knowledge through the Assessment for Learning method, innovative in Italy, and by comparing it with other methods, already commonly used. This method allows students to be protagonists of their own learning; it leads them to self-assessment and to autonomous reflection; it motivates them by creating curiosity, interest and willingness to learn, in order to achieve more efficiency in learning and more probabilities of lifelong knowledge.
Before starting this experiment on didactics, a survey was done. A few mathematics and science teachers from different secondary schools (KS3) were interviewed about the didactic of this “subject” and on the methodologies generally used in teaching. The results confirmed that in secondary schools (KS3) this topic is not debated and that, overall, the most used methodologies are lectures and school trips.
Therefore, the didactic experiment with the Assessment for Learning went on and the results were positive. Indeed, not only the students who learnt through Assessment for Learning achieved better marks than the other students who learnt about the same topic by lectures and active techniques, but they were also more interested and motivated and, even more important, not one single student failed the final test (as a result of the responsible group work carried out during the lessons). Furthermore, during the lessons the students spontaneously gave their contribution with practical proposals, aimed at minimizing the environmental impact problem.
In conclusion, this study, conceived as a first test for the applicability of the Assessment for Learning method in Italian schools, shows at least the importance of organizing, in future, a didactic project based on this new methodology in science teaching, in order to consider, in perspective, a wider application field.