The Role of Edu-action programs in Changing Learner Behaviours
Edu-action programs are, as the name suggests, educational programs that are based on students taking action on an issue. Edu-action programs seek to make a difference for the Coastal and Marine Environment through actions of caring for others or the environment, either in the school or in the community, with preparation and reflection.
In general, actions that we take to help others or improve our communities and the Coastal and Marine Environment leave a lasting impression on our minds and hearts.
Edu-action empowers students to learn by doing because it asks them to apply the skills and knowledge they have gained to a meaningful, real-life project
The long term sustainable use and conservation of the Coastal and Marine Environment is dependent on members of the community who understand the issues affecting the coastal and marine environment and are committed to protecting and maintaining it by reducing human impact.
Traditionally much of what has been conducted as environmental education has focussed on improving student awareness and understanding of environmental problems. A consequence of this has been the increasing anxiety and concern expressed by many students in relation to the future of the earth and environmental degradation about which they feel they have no ability to influence.
Research has clearly recognised the importance of awareness raising as a tool to effect change in attitudes about the environment but also has shown that it is equally important to provide students with skills and strategies to enable them to solve problems.
In their paper "Changing learner behaviour through environmental education" Hungerford and Volk have provided a clear demonstration of the significance of action based learning in the development of these problem solving skills, and the long term changes in learner behaviour resulting from this type of curriculum.
Through Edu-Action Programs within schools, students gain the much needed real life problem solving skills to empower them for the future in addressing problems affecting the Coastal and Marine Environment through action.
Changing Learner Behaviour Through Environmental Education
The ultimate aim of education is shaping human behaviour.
Societies throughout the world establish educational systems in order
to develop citizens who will behave in desirable ways. In education, some
of the desired behaviours are sharply defined, e.g., skills useful in
reading and mathematics. Other desired behaviours are more complex, e.g.,
successful consumerism, productive employment, responsible citizenship.
It is on one of these latter behaviours, responsible citizenship, that
this paper is focused. Specifically, this paper will address the effectiveness
of environmental education for promoting responsible citizenship behaviour.
The educational task, which is implied by the Tbilisi
objectives, is an ambitious one. The citizenship behaviour that they describe
demands an educational thrust that goes beyond basic education
in its traditional sense. Instead, we are faced with a set of objectives
that paint a broad picture of behaviour encompassing not only knowledge,
attitudes, and skills, but also active participation in society. The challenge
for educators is to translate the Tbilisi objectives into instructional
reality. And, since the objectives focus on responsible behaviour, it
would be appropriate and helpful to consult traditional thinking about
behaviour as well as recent research into environmental behaviour.
Traditional Thinking Versus Research Findings
The traditional thinking in the field of environmental education has been that we can change behaviour by making human beings more knowledgeable about the environment and its associated issues. This thinking has largely been linked to the assumption that, if we make human beings more knowledgeable, they will, in turn, become more aware of the environment
and its problems and, thus, be more motivated to act toward the environment in more responsible ways. Other traditional thinking has linked knowledge to attitudes and attitudes to behaviour. An early and widely accepted model for EE has been described in the following manner: "Increased knowledge leads to favourable attitudes . . which in turn lead to action promoting better environmental quality" (Ramsey and Rickson , 1977).
Both of these models are, in fact, very similar and can be illustrated as shown below.
Research into environmental behaviour. Unfortunately does not bear out the validity of these linear models for changing behaviour. Numerous researchers have investigated a variety of variables hypothesized to be associated with responsible environmental behaviour. Many studies have looked at only one variable at a time, and numbers of these have been correlational studies that cannot claim "cause and effect" relationships.
This is not to say that the research in the field has not been productive. Indeed, it has. However, to present a detailed survey of the research literature here would be an enormous task and detract from the major thrust of this document. Let us, at least initially, transcend the bulk of that research by focusing our attention on one particular study which synthesizes the work that preceded it.
In 1986-87, Hines et al. published an important meta-analysis of the behaviour research literature in EE. The researchers analysed 118 studies which had been reported since 197I . . . which assessed variables in association with responsible environmental behaviour and which reported empirical data on this relationship.... An analysis of data (from these studies) resulted in the emergence of a number of major categories of variables which had been investigated in association with responsible environmental behaviour....in the end fifteen separate variables were meta- analysed in an effort to determine the strength of their association with environmental behaviour. (p. 3)
From this scientific analysis, a model of responsible environmental behaviour emerged. This model is displayed in Figure 2.
In discussing this model, Hines et al. made the following inferences:
An Evolution of the Behaviour Model
Concurrently with or subsequent to the Hines et al. research, a number
of other researchers were making substantial contributions to the literature
on behaviour (Borden 1984-85; Borden and Powell 1983; Holt 1988). Some
of this research focused on the precursors (predictors) of behaviour and
some on the outcomes observed from instructional strategies which incorporated
a number of the variables from the Hines et al. model.
Variables in the Behaviour Flow Chart
It appears that we can maximize opportunities to change learner behaviour in the environmental dimension if educational agencies will:
Comments on Implementing the Critical Components
Certainly, there is no one best way to implement these
components in an instructional setting even though the research provides
the reader with some meaningful clues concerning important and successful
strategies. And it may be that it still takes a concerted, cooperative
effort among educational institutions to meet the challenge of changing
learner behaviour. Certainly, an articulated implementation across grade
levels and cooperation of non-formal educational agencies as well as local
and regional educational resources would maximize the opportunity for
What are some successful strategies for meeting the implementation challenge? What are some cautions that should be kept in mind while implementing the important components? Most of the components listed in Table I will be discussed here in some detail. However, first let us focus on at least one overall strategy that seems to be especially critical.
The need for a reinforcement strategy
Educators must not assume that one course or one unit or one year of training will accomplish the task needed even though a number of studies have shown that certain strategies for changing behaviour are successful (Holt 1988; Klinger 1980; Ramsey 1989; Ramsey et al. 1981; Simpson 1989). Associated with one of these studies (Ramsey et al. 1981) was an important but unpublished follow-up investigation conducted three years after Ramsey measured the effects of three different treatments on the environmental behaviour of eighth-grade students.
Three years after Ramsey completed his initial investigation, he trained several graduate students to act as interviewers and took them to the secondary school where the original subjects were students. The interviewers were trained to assess the extent of student involvement in environmental issues and environmentally appropriate behaviour. The interviewers were not told which students had been in the experimental group and which had been in either of the control groups. Interestingly, the interviewers could identify each of the students who had been in the experimental group. The subjects were involved in more environmentally appropriate behaviours than their counterparts.
However, it was clear that the original behaviour observed in the eighth grade had eroded over time. There had been no intervening educational reinforcement for the students over a three-year period. Thus, it seemed obvious that, even though the experimental subjects were more environmentally involved, some sort of intervening treatment would have been needed to maintain the original level of involvement.
In light of Ramsey's follow-up study, it seems obvious that learners need to be reinforced for positive environmental behaviour over time. No definitive recommendations about the extent of instructional reinforcement will be made here. There is simply no research to validate how much is needed. However, it is evidently imperative that learners get in-depth educational experiences over a substantial amount of time.
Thoughts on the sensitivity component
Environmental sensitivity is a particularly troublesome valuable for many educators who understand its importance. The variables associated with sensitivity are often not associated with formal education.
Several research studies have focused on sensitivity (Peters-Grant 1986; Peterson 1982; Scholl 1983; Tanner 1980). These studies yielded similar results concerning the precursors to environmental sensitivity. It appears that "environmental sensitivity" is a function of an individual's contact with the outdoors in relatively pristine environments either alone or with close personal friends or relatives. The environmentally sensitive individuals reported hunting, fishing, and other outdoor activities as important variables.
Of great importance is the fact that they reported that these activities took place over long periods of time.
Numerous sensitive individuals reported that some experience with severe environmental degradation substantially increased their environmental sensitivity. Some sensitive individuals reported the importance of teachers who acted as sensitive role models for them. Others reported being raised in an environmentally sensitive social environment. Only a few reported the importance of educational courses or books.
If these research studies are to help us make educational decisions about developing environmental sensitivity, it seems important that learners have environmentally positive experiences in non-formal outdoor settings over long periods of time. And, in the formal classroom, we must look to teachers who are, themselves, sensitive and willing to act as positive role models for learners. Both of these conditions, for millions of learners, are hard to meet.
Accomplishing the Issue investigation, action, and knowledge components: two recommended approaches
These variables are collapsed together in this heading
because there is research evidence that these can be met simultaneously
in a formal instructional setting. (Holt 1988; Klingler 1980; Ramsey 1989;
Ramsey et al. 1981; Simpson 1989). In each of these studies, behaviour
changed positively as a consequence of instruction that focused on ownership
and empowerment. Of great importance is the fact that, in all cases, students
were shown to participate in more environmentally appropriate behaviours
out of school after instruction.
The instruction used in each of these studies focused on the goal levels cited earlier with the exception of the ecological foundations goal. That particular goal (ecological foundations) was met earlier in the learner's schooling. Thus, Goals II, III, and IV were part of the instructional design. In all cases, the instruction involved the use of one of two curricular strategies (Hungerford et al. 1988; Marcinkowski et al. 1990; Hungerford et al. 1990).
Two Curricular Strategies: The Issue Investigation and Action Model and the Extended Case Study Model
In the issue investigation and action model, the student learns to discriminate between environmental events, problems, and issues. The impact of beliefs and values on issues is emphasized, and an issue analysis strategy is introduced and practised. Students then learn how to identify environmental issues, write research questions focused on these issues, and learn how to obtain information about issues using secondary sources. They also learn how to compare and evaluate secondary information sources.
They then learn how to develop surveys, opinionnaires, and questionnaires and how to sample populations in order to obtain scientifically valid information. In addition, they are taught how to record data, interpret the data, make inferences about the data and draw recommendations from these inferences. At this time, each student chooses an issue of particular interest to him/her and investigates that issue in depth. Subsequently, the student prepares a report on that investigation and tenders a written report to the instructor and an oral one to his/her peers.
After the students have competed their issue investigations, they learn the major methods of citizenship action, analyse the effectiveness of individual action versus group action, and develop issue-resolution action plans. This action plan is evaluated against a set of criteria designed to assess the social, cultural, and ecological implications of the action. Finally, the students decide whether they want to actually implement the plan of action. If they choose to implement their action, the instructor helps to facilitate this citizenship behaviour.
In the extended case study model, the students learn some of the same skills that were learned in the other model except that they do so focused on a predetermined issue, sometimes chosen by the class but most often chosen by the instructor. The research indicates that the extended case study model, although successful, is not as powerful an instructional model as the issue investigation and action model.
Selected educational characteristics of both models are illustrated in Table 2. The characteristics displayed are for ages 6 to 17 (Grades 1 to 12) only. It is important to note, however, that the issue investigation and action model has been used very successfully with both undergraduates and graduate students in university teacher education programs in the United States.
Table 2: A Comparison of Two Instructional Models for EE
Issue investigation model
Case Study model
Effectiveness of Environmental Education around the World
Has environmental education been effective on a global basis? In citing evidence of success, we might point to nations that have made a concerted effort to mount environmental education programs. We might also note the many national and international leaders who are hard at work trying to implement EE. Numerous organizations also advocate and/or deliver environmental education programs. In addition, there are curricular materials from formal and non-formal educational agencies; media campaigns; adult education programs; outdoor education programs; conservation education programs; and other vehicles that attempt, in one way or another, to change human behaviour in an environmental dimension.
Evidence of success might also be seen in the numerous stories telling what young students and adult activists have done regarding issues. Some of these anecdotes have originated from students who have learned issue investigation and citizenship action skills in school. Some of these anecdotes have originated from excellent conservation education programs designed to teach adolescents and pre-adolescents sound conservation practices. Some have originated from governmental agencies which are funded to help humans learn how to conserve natural resources.
Others come from private agencies that strive to help human beings confront issues and deal responsibly with the environment. Still others originate in agencies that have a major responsibility for environmentally related law enforcement.
Does this wealth of evidence speak to the effectiveness of environmental education? Before reaching that decision, it may be wise to consider additional evidence. We urge responsible citizens and educators to consider three main concerns.
Concern No. l: We Seem to Be Losing the Battle for the Environment
Regardless of what we as educators would like to think, we can point to relatively few successes that off-set the severity of environmental degradation and the serious problems associated with human reproductivity. This is a bitter concept for educators to accept. Although we are prone to defend our practices in EE, we must stop and evaluate how successful we are in the overall battle to resolve urgently important environmental issues.
t is not our purpose here to put forward a litany of truly critical environmental issues facing human beings today. But, if we did, this listing would enormously outweigh the successes in changing environmentally related behaviour around the world. Plus, when current reports on environmental quality are considered we must admit that we have not been successful on a widespread basis in convincing world citizens to act in environmentally responsible ways
Concern No. 2: There Are Too Few Sound National Strategies for EE
In numerous countries (including the authors' own), EE is a stepchild of education, or it receives only sporadic attention. Relatively few nations have made a commitment to EE programs that involve students throughout their schooling and that utilize a carefully constructed, research-based scope and sequence. Where EE exists, students typically receive incidental exposure to environmental issues, with the emphasis on the ecological foundations and/or awareness levels. Thus, there appear to be few concerned, nationally focused efforts that prepare future citizens to make environmentally sound decisions or to participate responsibly in environmental maintenance and remediation. As a result, only a fraction of our young learners are being exposed to logically developed, well-articulated EE programs.
Further, there are relatively few efforts to try to change environmental behaviour through the media. Certainly, there are nations that can point to television programming that focuses attention on environmental issues, wildlife, or natural ecological systems. In almost all instances, however, these media presentations deliver information about the environment and about environmental issues. Few media events focus on skills associated with individual citizens' ownership and empowerment. Similarly, with few exceptions, the number of people watching these programs is relatively small compared with the population as a whole. Further, when print sources are focused on environmental issues, those issues are frequently ones that appear newsworthy to editors, and coverage is almost totally at an issue awareness level. Without opportunities for ownership or empowerment, it appears unlikely that these efforts will move the public to widespread participation in environmental responsibility. Thus EE media efforts tend to focus on the awareness level (which tends to be ineffective in changing behaviour) and often fail to reach a large audience of learners.
Concern No. 3: Educators Are Focused on the Wrong Strategies
A similar situation exists in the instructional materials utilized in formal educational settings. By and large, these materials are designed to provide information: information about ecology . . . information about the environment . . . information about environmental issues. Too few EE programs incorporate serious attempts to develop ownership and empowerment in learners. Again, these educational efforts typically focus only on the awareness level. Environmental educators overwhelmingly agree that the major aim of EE is to produce individuals who will willingly and responsibly participate in environmental maintenance and remediation . Unfortunately, the majority of instructional materials in EE fail to develop skills associated with investigating and evaluating issues or with responsible citizen participation.
In addition, most success stories are issue-specific in nature. In other words, most successes resolve around educational efforts designed to help resolve specific issues. The knowledge and skills learned are focused on a particular issue, e.g., endangered species, sound waste management, safe water supplies, forest conservation etc. We cannot argue the importance of attending to these issues where they are locally important. However, in many instances, this strategy is seriously flawed. The flaw in this one-issue strategy centres on "generalisability". It is relatively easy to get learners focused on an issue, particularly if it is one of interest or importance to them. In many instances, educators can also engage learners in citizenship action strategies related to that issue. Unfortunately, with a single-issue focus, there exists very little opportunity to generalise the knowledge and skills to other issues (unless they are closely related to the first ones). Thus the results of our efforts are learners who may act in an environmentally positive manner in relation to one issue (or set of issues), but who do not have the knowledge, skills, and willingness to assume environmental responsibility in their day- to - day lives.
One of the serious impediments to the kind of instruction recommended in this document is the fact that it differs substantially from typical educational practice. As stated before, most educators firmly believe that, if we teach learners about something, behaviour can be modified. In some cases, perhaps, this is true. However, in educating for generalisable responsible environmental behaviour, the evidence is to the contrary. Typically, issue awareness does not lead to behaviour in the environmental dimension.
This means that we must look to a new model of instruction if behaviour is important. And, because all environmental behaviour is somehow issue related, it appears as though issues must be the focus of instruction beyond environmental sensitivity, ecological foundations, and issue awareness.
If environmental issues are to become an integral part of instruction designed to change behaviour, instruction must go beyond an "awareness" or "knowledge" of issues. Students must be given the opportunity to develop the sense of "ownership" and "empowerment" so that they are fully invested in an environmental sense and prompted to become responsible, active citizens.
The research is very clear on the matter. Citizenship behaviour can be developed through environmental education. The strategies are known. The tools are available. The challenge lies in a willingness to do things differently than we have in the past.