The gap between policy rhetoric and school practices in environmental education has not only persisted but probably increased over the past twenty years, given the contested advent of education for sustainable development (ESD) as the dominant international policy discourse in this area, and an increased focus in schools on didactic teaching in traditional content areas resulting from narrowly defined accountability measures in many national educational policies. After examining changes and continuities in the discourse of environmental education/ESD and the policy contexts of schools over the past twenty years, this article argues for re-conceptualising the rhetoric-practice gap such that practices in schools are not simply assessed in relation to policy discourse but policy discourse itself is re-examined in relation to teachers' practical theories and the contexts shaping their practices. Although the structures and norms of schooling continue to work against inquiry-based action-oriented environmental education practices, several emerging trends are identified that can offer promising spaces or opportunities. Drawing on what we know about the power of professional communities to contribute to teacher learning, the article concludes with a call for constructing discourses of professional learning that reflexively build, sustain and develop such spaces and opportunities for enacting meaningful environmental education in schools. Such a discourse and approach, it is argued, can move the focus from educators' implementation of environmental education (as expressed in the policy discourse) to building their normative and technical capacity, both individually and collectively, to shape practice.
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