Module 15


Taking Action for the Coastal
and Marine Environment





Reading 1 The Role of Edu-action programs in Changing Learner Behaviours Reading 2 Changing Learner Behaviour Through Environmental Education
Reading 3 Finding The Funds -A Students’ Guide To Writing A Grant Application    


Reading 1

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.


Reading 2

Changing Learner Behaviour Through Environmental Education

Source: Harold R. Hungerford and Trudy L. Volk (1991), Journal of Environmental Education , 22, P 8 - 17


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.

How might responsible environmental behaviour be operationalised? In order to answer this question, we must look to the objectives for environmental education (EE) as defined by the 1977 Tbilisi Intergovernmental Conference on Environmental Education. These objectives, which can be found in the Tbilisi conference declaration (1978), are as follows:

  Awareness to help social groups and individuals acquire an awareness and sensitivity to the total environment and its allied problems (and / or issues)
  Sensitivity to help social groups and individuals gain a variety of experiences in, and acquire a basic understanding of, the environment and its associated problems (and/or issues)
  Attitudes to help social groups and individuals acquire a set of values and feelings of concern for the environment and motivation for actively participating in environmental improvement and protection
  Skills to help social groups and individuals acquire skills for identifying and solving environmental problems (and/or issues)
  Participation to provide social groups and individuals with an opportunity to be actively involved at all levels in working toward resolution of environmental problems (and/or issues)

By using these objectives, we might define an environmentally responsible citizen as one who has

(1) an awareness and sensitivity to the total environment and its allied problems (and/or issues)
(2) a basic understanding of the environment and its allied problems (and/or issues)
(3) feelings of concern for the environment and motivation for actively participating in environmental improvement and protection
(4) skills for identifying and solving environmental problems (and/or issues), and
(5) active involvement at all levels in working toward resolution of environmental problems (and or issues)

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 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 individual who expresses an intention to take action will be more likely to engage in the action than will an individual who expresses no such intention. However, it appears that intention to act is merely an artifact of a number of other variables acting in combination (e.g., cognitive knowledge, cogritive skills, and personality factors).

Before an individual can act intentionally on a particular environmental problem, that individual must be cognisant of the existence of the (issue). Thus, knowledge of the (issues) appears to be a prerequisite to action.

An individual must also possess knowledge of those courses of action which are available and which will be most effective in a given situation. Another critical component . . . is skill in appropriately applying this knowledge (i.e., knowledge of action strategies to a given (issue).

In addition, an individual must possess a desire to act. One's desire to act appears to be affected by a host of personality factors.... locus of control, attitudes (toward the environment and toward taking action), and personal responsibility (toward the environment).

Situation factors, such as economic constraints, social pressures and opportunities to choose different actions may ,. . serve to either counteract or to strengthen the variables in the model.

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.

These studies, coupled with the Hines et al. model, revealed that there are probably three categories of variables that contribute to behaviour. The variable categories (entry-level variables, ownership variables, and empowerment variables) are hypothesized to act in more or less of a linear fashion, albeit a complex one. These variables are displayed in Figure 3, the behaviour flow chart.


Variables in the Behaviour Flow Chart

In the discussion that follows, an attempt is made to describe the variables listed in the behaviour flow chart. At certain points, comments are made about the synergistic relationship that appears to exist between certain closely related variables. The reader is cautioned to keep in mind that all of the variables discussed below probably operate in some sort of synergistic manner. While the categories of variables probably operate in a linear fashion, the variables within each category do not necessarily operate in a similar manner. It should also be noted that more research is needed to fully understand the relationships between these variables and behaviour.

Entry-Level Variables

Entry-level variables are good predictors of behaviour or ones that appear to be related to responsible citizenship behaviour. These appear to be prerequisite variables or, at the very least, variables that would enhance a person’s decision making, once an action is undertaken. These variables will be briefly introduced here. Subsequently, several will be discussed in more detail.

Environmental sensitivity is defined as an empathetic perspective toward the environment. It is the one entry-level variable that has shown a dramatic relationship to behaviour in the research. Given these data, considerable attention must be given by environmental educators to this variable.

Androgyny (in a psychological sense) is a variable that is often associated with individuals who are active in helping resolve environmental issues. Androgyny refers to those human beings who tend to reflect non-traditional sex-role characteristics. For example, an androgynous male may be a very sympathetic individual and able to cry in a sad situation (a traditional female characteristic). An androgynous female, for example, may exhibit certain male characteristics such as assertive behaviour. Androgyny is not as strong a predictor as environmental sensitivity.

Knowledge of ecology is listed here because it is almost always prerequisite to sound decisions regarding solutions to issues. "Knowledge of ecology" refers to an ecological conceptual basis for decision making, e.g., concepts associated with population dynamics, nutrient cycling, succession, homeostasis, etc. The research would indicate that knowledge of ecology does not, in itself, produce environmental behaviour. Still, it is an important variable when one considers the importance of ecological concepts in decision making.

Attitudes toward pollution/technology/economics are variables that have shown themselves to be significant in some of the research. Although these attitudes appear to be involved with behaviour, the extent of their involvement is still unknown and, thus, they are shown here as minor variables.


Ownership Variables

Ownership variables are those that make environmental issues very personal. The individual “owns” the issues, i.e., the issues are extremely important, at a personal level, to him/her. Much of what we know about “ownership” is inferred from a variety of studies. Ownership variables appear to be critical to responsible environmental behaviour.
In-depth knowledge (understanding) of issues appears crucial to ownership. A number of important studies have addressed this variable. It appears that, before individuals can engage in responsible citizenship behaviour, they must understand the nature of the issue and its ecological and human implications. When individuals have an in-depth understanding of issues, they appear more inclined to take on citizenship responsibility toward those issues.

Personal investment in an issue or an action is another variable that we hypothesize to be a major factor in this category. Personal investment is much like "ownership" itself. Here the individual identifies strongly with the issue because he/she has what might be called a proprietary interest in it. For example, an individual who thoroughly understands the economics of recycling and who uses a substantial amount of recyclable material might feel a substantial personal economic investment in recycling. However, the motivation might not necessarily have to be economic. It could be environmental in nature if the person has good ecological concepts about waste disposal, biodegradability and nutrient cycles and understands the broad human involvement in these things. Recycling might, then, become a strong personal need which could be translated as "personal investment."

Empowerment Variables

Empowerment variables are crucial in the training of responsible citizens in the environmental dimension. These variables give human beings a sense that they can make changes and help resolve important environmental issues. "Empowerment" seems to be the cornerstone of training in environmental education. Unfortunately, it is a step that is often neglected in educational practice. A discussion of "empowerment variables" follows.

Perceived skill in using environmental action strategies is one of the very best predictors of behaviour. Simply put, perceived skill in using action strategies can be translated as human beings believing that they have the "power" to use citizenship strategies to help resolve issues. Further, these skills are fairly easy to teach to learners.

Teachers trained in this strategy report that students tend to develop a great deal of self-confidence as a result of this training. Training in action skills also results in improved students' self concepts and a belief that they have been more fully incorporated into society. These are very powerful considerations when making students more responsible citizens in their own communities.

Knowledge of environmental action strategies is a variable that sometimes shows a relationship to behaviour in the research (Holt 1988; Klingler 1980; Rarnsey 1989; Ramsey et al. 1981; Simpson 1989). The extent to which this variable is separate and apart from "perceived skill in using action strategies" is unknown. It is probable that the skill component is dependent on the knowledge variable to a great extent. Knowledge about action strategies per se is not as powerful a predictor as the skill variable. This explains why these two variables are listed together in the behaviour flow chart.

A word of caution may be necessary here. In the studies that examined behaviour, learners gained an in-depth knowledge of issues as well as learning about action strategies. It is suspected that these two major variables operate synergistically, not separately. Thus, it would appear unlikely that citizenship action skills taught without issue-related knowledge would prompt responsible behaviour in individuals.

Locus of control, although not as good a predictor as perceived skill in using action strategies, is important also, and, like many of the other variables discussed here, this one is probably interconnected with others. Locus of control refers to an individual's belief in being reinforced for a certain behaviour. A person with an "internal locus of control" expects that he/she will experience success or somehow be reinforced for doing something. Success, in turn, appears to strengthen his/her internal locus of control. On the other hand a person with an "external locus of control" does not believe that he/she will be reinforced for doing something and, therefore, probably still not do it.

An individual who believes that he/she has good fishing skills is more likely to attempt fishing because there is an expectation of success or reinforcement for this behaviour. This person has an internal locus of control for fishing. An individual who believes that he/she is powerless to make changes in society probably will not act in a citizenship dimension. There is no expectation of success or reinforcement for acting. This person would have an external locus of control for trying to help resolve environmental issues.

An internal locus of control probably cannot be developed directly in the classroom. However, there is research that indicates that locus of control can be improved as a consequence of teaching citizenship action skills. An improved locus of control may well result when students have had an opportunity to apply these skills successfully in the community.

Intention to act seems also related to the "empowerment" variable. If a person intends to take some sort of actions the chances of that action occurring are increased. It is likely that this variable is closely related to both perceived skill in taking action and locus of control. "Intention to act" may also share a synergistic relationship with "personal investment," which was discussed earlier under the "ownership" heading.


Goals and Objectives for Instruction in Environmental Education

Behaviour in the environmental dimension can be perceived as so very complicated as to make instructional planning difficult. This difficulty (as well as a lack of research into the precursors of behaviour and instructional strategies designed to change behaviour) probably resulted in the model that knowledge leads to awareness which leads to behaviour.


There has been a great deal of criticism about the lack of direction in EE over the past 15 years. The lack of emphasis upon objectives that focused on helping students actually solve environmental problems and develop problem-solving skills is contrary to the recommendations for environmental education objectives contained in both the 1977 Belgrade Charter and the 1977 Tbilisi Intergovernmental Conference Report.


The answer to some of these concerns might be found in instructional goals for environmental education that incorporate the variables related to "ownership" and "empowerment." Such a set of goals was developed in the early 80s and has subsequently been used throughout the world as a guide for curriculum development and research. This set of goals identifies a "Superordinate goal'


The Superordinate Goal . . . to aid citizens in becoming environmentally knowledgeable and, above all, skilled and dedicated citizens who are willing to work, individually and collectively, toward achieving and/or maintaining a dynamic equilibrium between quality of life and quality of the environment.

Four major goal levels as well as sub-goals were developed to help accomplish the superordinate goal. The goal levels are presented below.


Goal Level I: The Ecological Foundations Level. This level seeks to provide learners with sufficient ecological knowledge to permit him/her to eventually make ecologically sound decisions with respect to environmental issues.

Goal Level II. The Conceptual Awareness Level-Issues and Values. This level seeks to guide the development of a conceptual awareness of how individual and collective actions may influence the relationship between quality of life and the quality of the environment and, also, how these actions result in environmental issues that must be resolved through investigation, evaluation, values clarification, decision making, and finally, citizenship action.

Goal Level III: The Investigation and Evaluation Level. This level provides for the development of the knowledge and skills necessary to permit learners to investigate environmental issues and evaluate alternative solutions for solving these issues. Similarly, values are clarified with respect to these issues and alternative solutions.

Goal Level IV: Action Skills Level-Training and Application. This level seeks to guide the development of those skills necessary for learners to take positive environmental action for the purpose of achieving and/or maintaining a dynamic equilibrium between quality of life and quality of the environment.


Educating for a Change in Behaviour


What Are the Critical Educational Components?

Given all that has preceded this section, one should be able to identify a number of critical components of a total educational program for environmental education if changes in learner behaviour are desired. Among these critical components are ones which can be facilitated by formal and non-formal educational agencies (see Table 1).


Table 1: Critical Education Components

It appears that we can maximize opportunities to change learner behaviour in the environmental dimension if educational agencies will:

1. teach environmentally significant ecological concepts and the environmental interrelationships that exist within and between these concepts

2. provide carefully designed and in-depth opportunities for learners to achieve some level of environmental sensitivity that will promote a desire to behave in appropriate ways

3. provide a curriculum that will result in an in-depth knowledge of issues

4. provide a curriculum that will teach learners the skiffs of issue analysis and investigation as well as provide the time needed for the application of these skills

5. provide a curriculum that will teach learners the citizenship skills needed for issue remediation as well as the time needed for the application of these skills

6. provide an instructional setting that increases learners' expectancy of reinforcement for acting in responsible ways, i.e., attempt to develop an internal locus of control in learners.


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 success.

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
1. Appropriate grade levels 6-12 1-12
2. The student’s role in the class As an autonomous issue investigator As a researcher in large or small groups
3. The extent to which the student gains an in-depth knowledge of a wide variety of issues A great extent A small extent
4. The extent to which the student gains a sense of issue ownership A great extent A moderate extent
5. The extent to which the student gains new skills Very high Moderate
6. The extent to which the student is empowered to act on a variety of issues A great extent A small extent
7. The extent to which one can anticipate student involvement in issue solution outside of school A great extent A moderate extent
8. Issue focus Multiple issues A single issue
9. Instructional posture of teacher Direct instruction followed by a role as facilitator of investigation and action Initially traditional as a facilitator of investigation during the group investigation
l0. Demand for teacher flexibility High Moderate
11. Time needed Typically 18 weeks Usually much less than 18 weeks
12. Need for in-service education of teachers Very high High
13. Potential for infusion into existing programs Low to moderate Very high

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.


In Closing

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.