Dr. Derek Gladwin
Systems Being Lab: https://systemsbeingslab.ubc.ca/
Transdisciplinary Collaborative PhD program: https://climateaction.collabphd.ubc.ca/
Environmental Educational Design: https://dneducationdesign.ca/
Google Scholar: https://scholar.google.ca/citations?hl=en&user=gtCqKi4AAAAJ
Decolonizing pedagogies and knowledges
Environmental theory and practice
Multiliteracy and multimodality
Storytelling & Narrative Inquiry
Dr Derek Gladwin is an Associate Professor in the Department of Language and Literacy Education (LLED), Faculty of Education, at the University of British Columbia (UBC). In addition to co-founding the Systems Beings Lab and Collaborative PhD for Climate Action at UBC, Gladwin has also served as a Sustainability Fellow and Wall Catalyst Scholar in Climate and Nature Emergency. He has held various international visiting positions at University of Edinburgh, Trinity College Dublin, and Utrecht University, among others. Gladwin’s work explores approaches to education that create societal impact, including building literacy for energy transition, fostering literacy for socio-ecological awareness and action, prototyping regenerative learning models in higher education, and cultivating conditions for arts-based education. Gladwin has published dozens of articles and authored or co-edited many books, including Ecological Exile (2018) and Rewriting Our Stories (2021). As Senior Editor, he leads Environmental & Sustainability Education in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Education. For more details, visit Derek Gladwin’s UBC profile page.
I am an Associate Professor in the Department of Language & Literacy Education in the Faculty of Education. Additionally, I am an affiliate faculty member in the Clean Energy Research Centre (CERC), Master of Educational Technology (MET), Master of Arts in Children’s Literature (MACL), and Interdisciplinary Studies Graduate Program (ISGP). I have held international visiting research positions at Concordia University (Montreal), University of Galway, University of Amsterdam, University of Edinburgh, Trinity College Dublin, and Utrecht University. At UBC, I served as a Sustainability Fellow at the Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability (2018-2021) and a Wall Scholar (2022-2023) in the Catalyst Program for Climate and Nature Emergency at the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies.
My interdisciplinary research, which has spanned various phases of development and evolution over the years, broadly considers the following educational inquiry: how might we create and explore conditions to deal with complex issues, such as socio-ecological impacts and energy transition, through multiple forms of learning and knowledges that transcend disciplinary interventions?
This question began by drawing on humanities and arts-based approaches to real and imagined environments in order to produce social action. In my first two authored books, Contentious Terrains (2016) and Ecological Exile (2018), I investigated how literary and media texts focused on various cultural, political, and material spaces can critically inform and educate society about socio-cultural and ecological changes. Connected to this research – as seen in the scholarly-trade crossover book Rewriting Our Stories: Education, Empowerment, and Well-being (2021), as well as journal articles, podcasts, workshops, and op-eds – I considered how the language and literacy of stories can educate and empower people to engage in greater empathy and well-being. Another collaborative research effort resulted in a multi-authored book titled Solarities: Seeking Energy Justice (2022) that addresses the complexities of societal transition on renewable solar energy.
From these previous research projects, among others listed below, I have been influenced more recently to consider ways of changing socio-ecological systems through formal or non-formal educational models. As such, I have been exploring aspects of transdisciplinary and complexity education in the form of systems literacy – the capacity to identify, interpret, co-create, relate to, and communicate about how systems work, transcending both the fragmentation of siloed disciplines and reductive models of educational inquiry. I am particularly motivated by how we educate to engage and work with/in complex systems, which bring uncertainties, paradoxes, and contradictions. How, then, do we co- create the conditions to work with/in complexity as researchers and educators? As a response to this inquiry, I co-founded (with Naoko Ellis) the Systems Beings Lab at UBC, where we, as a collective educational research group, consider the concept of systems beings as a way to foster holistic perspectives on complex issues to co-create more generative futures.
This research trajectory has taken my curiosities into multiple directions that integrate, traverse, and extend into various aspects of educational and literacy research. One current book project titled Discursive Ecologies (with Kedrick James) explores holistic approaches to environmental literacy, particularly where language becomes a discursive act of being ecological. Another book in preparation, titled Futures Literacies (with Rachel Horst), gathers together chapters from scholars, practitioners, and educators to propose curricular intervention that examines future(s) as a possibility and as a context for inquiry across disciplines, ontologies, and epistemologies. Other book projects and articles that are in progress focus on empathy education, transdisciplinarity, systems literacy, energy literacy, and de-centred relational forms of being. Because relational forms of co-creation have emerged as crucial components for social change, many current and future projects involve various forms of collaboration.
Ongoing interdisciplinary research and teaching curiosities include the following (often) intersecting areas:
- environmental and ecological literacy
- climate and sustainability education
- energy literacy and transition
- systems literacy
- complexity education
- regenerative and transformative education
- ontological education and inquiry
- philosophy and theory of education
- transdisciplinary and collaborative education
- decolonizing education
- futures literacies
- empathy education
- textual literacies and hermeneutics (through media, literary, and visual culture)
- digital literacy
- narrative inquiry and storytelling
- arts-based research
- food literacy
Public Commitment to Scholarship
In addition to traditional research, I am also committed to producing public forms of scholarship focused on literacy education – publishing op-eds, online articles, and academic-trade crossover books, as well as facilitating workshops and contributing to media interviews and other forms of digital engagement. Public scholarship provides a platform for life-long learners and bridges the divide between academia and society.
In an editorial role, I have been serving as the Senior Editor since 2020 for Environmental & Sustainability Education in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Education (OREE), published by Oxford University Press.
Regenerative Education Initiatives
Higher education is attempting to answer questions about the massive transitions facing contemporary society. How, then, do researchers and teachers foster conditions to address societal transitions? How can students, organizations, and communities navigate the complex systems affecting societal transitions that involve uncertainties, paradoxes, and conflicts? Regenerative education fosters systemic approaches to learning, which consider non-linear cycles that adapt to conditions outside of narrow definitions of disciplinary training or expertise. Whether it is examining mental health and well-being, renewable energy systems, climate adaptation, or diversity and equity, academics play a significant role in how education can be shaped to address such complex transitions. Educational programs, research, and curricula have a unique opportunity to adapt and change along with the worldviews, practices, and values of society.
Guided by the inquiry – how can education prepare learners to deal with societal transitions? – part of my efforts as a professor, educator, researcher, writer, artist, and ecological being is a commitment to building regenerative and transdisciplinary education models. I co-lead a Transdisciplinary Collaborative PhD for Climate Action Cohort focused on the UBC declared climate emergency that affords doctoral students a unique opportunity to experience educational theory, training, programing, and internships with partners in industry, government, and civil society to co-create and enable systems change collaboratively. This collaborative graduate educational model will also be part of the Accelerating Community Energy Transformation project, where I serve as a core researcher, with PhD student recruitments occurring in 2024 (see website for updates). Other regenerative educational initiatives are in development at UBC and in collaboration with University of Cambridge (UK) and The Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development at Utrecht University (NL).
For media requests, speaking or publishing invitations, or graduate student inquiries, please send me an email.
Gladwin, D. & N. Ellis (2023, Jan 15). Revolutionizing Climate Education in Universities. What on Earth with Laura Lynch, CBC, Canada
Gladwin, D. (2021, Nov 8). Rewriting Our Stories [Podcast]. Unmistakable Creative, USA.
Gladwin, D. (2021, July 12). Use a different story to reframe your fears [Print online]. Vancouver Sun, Canada.
Gladwin, D. (2021, June 7). R.E. W.R.I.T.E with Dr. Derek Gladwin – Episode 109 [Podcast]. Dhaani, United Kingdom.
Gladwin, D. (2021, May 18). Vancouver educator Derek Gladwin explores how storytelling is a way to overcome fear in new book [Print online]. Stir Vancouver Magazine, Canada.
Gladwin, D. (2021, April 14). The education of storytelling [Radio broadcast]. Planta: On the Line, The Commentary, Canada.
Gladwin, D. (2021, Feb. 16). Author Derek Gladwin speaking about his book Rewriting Our Stories [Radio broadcast]. On the Level Radio, 93.1 Life FM, Ireland.
Gladwin, D. & Harris, P. (2019, October 23). Political discourse [Radio broadcast]. Nai Taazi, Spice Radio 1200AM, Canada.
Gladwin, D. (2019, April 18). Meat and the environment: Do Canadians know what’s at stake? [print interview]. CBC, Canada.
Systems Beings Lab (SBL) (2023-)
A collaborative research collective aim at facilitating and elevating various educational approaches to grapple with complexity in societal transition.
Funding: Catalyst Collaborative Fund, Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies (PI)
Accelerating Community Energy Transformation (ACET) (2023-2030)
Regional project to explore renewable energy technologies and their implementation at the community using interdisciplinary perspectives and scientific approaches, informed by novel business models and governance approaches, and driven by community-engaged priorities and aspirations.
Funding: Canada First Research Excellent Fund (CFREF) (Co-I)
Transdisciplinary Collaborative PhD on the Climate Emergency (2021-2023)
Transdisciplinary collaborative PhD pilot program focused on the climate emergency.
Funding: Climate Emergency Fund, UBC Sustainability (Co-PI)
Narrating Energy Transitions and Literacy through Storytelling (2020-2023)
Interdisciplinary project investigating ways of imagining sustainable energy transitions and futures by teaching energy literacy through models of storytelling.
Funding: SSHRC Insight Development Grant (PI)
Collaborative PhD Models to Support a Transdisciplinary Research Ecosystem (2021-2023)
Prototype a model for transdisciplinary research through the structure of a collaborative PhD in the areas of low carbon futures/planetary health and regenerative development.
Funding: Advancing Education Renewal (Co-Investigator)
Empathy Education: Intersectional Approaches to Youth & Civic Engagement (2021)
Collaboration with and hosting the Beacon Fellow, Prof. Pat Dolan (UNESCO Chair in Children, Youth, and Civic Engagement), to advance research in empathy education.
Funding: Ireland Canada University Foundation (Co-PI)
Interdisciplinary Sustainability Education (2018-2021)
Course and program development project focused on sustainability and environmental education.
Funding: UBC Sustainability (Co-PI)
Indigenous Perspectives in Environmental Literacy (2020-2021)
Curriculum development involving the links between environmental and Indigenous education.
Funding: Indigenous Curriculum Enhancement Grant (Co-PI)
Futures Literacy (2020-21)
Pilot project undertaking an inquiry into the role of futures literacies in society.
Funding: SSHRC Explore Grant (PI)
International Youth Deliberation on Energy Futures (2019-2021)
An online collaborative curriculum project with 20 high schools from 17 countries focusing on global energy literacy.
Funding source: Future Energy Systems (Co-I)
Awards & Honours
Visiting Educational Scholar, Centre for Academic Teaching and Learning and The Copernicus institute of Sustainable Development, Utrecht University, Netherlands (2023)
Banting Postdoctoral Fellowship, University of Waterloo (2017-2018)
Visiting Research Fellowship, Centre for Environmental Humanities, Trinity College Dublin (2017)
Visiting Research Fellowship, Institute for Advanced Studies in Humanities, University of Edinburgh (2015)
Visiting Research Fellowship, Moore Institute, University of Galway (2015)
SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellowship, University of British Columbia (2015-17)
Governor General’s Academic Gold Medal Award, Gov. of Canada (2014)
LLED 481: Digital Media in English Language Arts Education
LLED 565/480: Energy Literacy in Educational & Environmental Futures
LLED 565: Environmental Literacy
LLED 442/565: Trends and Issues in Teaching Environmental Children’s Literature
Edited Journal Issues
Articles and Book Chapters
Gladwin, D. (2013). Eco-haptic photography: Visualizing bogland in Rachel Giese’s The Donegal Pictures. Photography and Culture, 6(2), 157-174. https://doi.org/10.2752/175145213X13606838923237
Gladwin, D. (2013). Gendered troubles on screen: Reproducing nationalism in Mike Leigh’s Four Days in July. In M. DiPaolo and B. Cardinale-Powell (Eds.), Devised and directed by Mike Leigh (pp. 251-275). Bloomsbury.
Gladwin, D. (2012). Navigating Irish ecocriticism in Eamonn Wall’s Writing the Irish West: Ecologies and Traditions. Irish Studies Review, 20(3), 323-328. https://doi.org/10.1080/09670882.2012.695611
Gladwin, D. (2012). No country for young men: Chinese modernity, displacement, and initiatory ritual in Chinese sixth generation cinema. Asian Cinema, 23(1), 31-44. https://doi.org/10.1386/ac.23.1.31_1
Gladwin, D. (2011). Staging the trauma of the bog in Marina Carr’s By the Bog of Cats. Irish Studies Review, 19(4), 387-400. https://doi.org/10.1080/09670882.2011.623459
Gladwin, D. (2007). The Steinbeckian land ethic: Environmentalism and The Red Pony. The Steinbeck Review, 4(1), 65-80. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1754-6087.2007.tb00101.x
Selected Online Articles
Gladwin, D. & James, K. (2023, Aug. 10). How language can turn down the temperature of heated climate change discourse. The Conversation
Gladwin, D., & Ellis, N. (2023, March 4). In a complex world, our graduates need to be systems beings. University World News: The Global Window on Higher Education.
Ramachandran, A., Abdi, K.,Giang, A.,Gladwin, D., & Ellis, N. (2022, November 15). Transdisciplinarity: Universities have a choice to lead. University World News: The Global Window on Higher Education.
Ellis, N. & Gladwin, D. (2022, July 19). How climate storytelling helps navigate complexity and find solutions. The Conversation.
Gladwin, D. (2021, October 24). Peatland folklore lent us will-o-the-wisps and jack-o-lanterns, and can inspire climate action today. The Conversation.
Gladwin, D. (2021, July 28). Why climate change education needs more empathy. Oxford University Press Blog.
Gladwin, D. (2020, April 20). We could power a new green movement by talking about energy change. The Conversation.
Gladwin, D. (2020). What are the ecological and educational futures of peatlands? In RE-PEAT Collective (Eds.), Peat anthology: EU edition (pp. 124-126). University of Amsterdam Open-access.
Gladwin, D. and Harris, P. (2019, October 16). Politicians aren’t solely to blame for nasty election discourse. Ottawa Citizen.
Gladwin, D. (2017, August 5). Valuing our Ecological Futures. Oxford University Press blog.
Gladwin, D. (2017, June 10). The Ecological and Cultural Futures of Peatlands. Trans-Disciplinary Conversations on Peatlands Blog.