Queensland and Saskatchewan middle years students' experiences of environmental education : an analysis of conceptions

Nagel, Michael (2005) Queensland and Saskatchewan middle years students' experiences of environmental education : an analysis of conceptions. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


This study explores the qualitatively different ways in which the phenomenon of environmental education is understood or experienced by a purposeful sample of year seven students in Queensland and Saskatchewan. In 'directing the activities of the young', environmental education has, since its genesis, existed in an epistemological quagmire surrounding the development of 'responsible' environmental behaviours. Yet, after some thirty years of research and pedagogical initiative, this is one of only a few studies that have looked at the reality of environmental education through the eyes of young people.

Contested and debated, environmental education has received much attention in many countries from educators interested in merging the complexities of the terms environment and education. In the context of this study it is significant to note that environmental education's history bears witness to scholarly discourse and educational initiatives in Australia and Canada. However, while environmental education has continued to expand its presence in pedagogical and didactic endeavour, its history also demonstrates contested ideological foundations regarding its implementation in schools. Queensland and Saskatchewan offer pertinent examples of this contestation.

From a global perspective, the goals and objectives of environmental education have been driven, developed and established around international agendas developed at a number of conferences designed and delivered through UNESCO. These global initiatives were then left to local interpretation that often resulted in very different didactic and pedagogic frameworks. Such is the case with Queensland and Saskatchewan where environmental education is situated within a social science framework in Queensland and a science framework in Saskatchewan. However, the pedagogical structure of environmental education was not the focus of this study per se. Instead, this phenomenographic research project looks at how the phenomenon of environmental education is experienced by a group of Year 7 children in each region. These children's experiences of environmental education can be encapsulated in a limited number of qualitatively different conceptualisations.

The study finds that, regardless of their country of origin, the children conceptualise environmental education in five ways; Environmental Education as:

'Human Being'.

'Human Escaping'.

'Human Doing'.

'Human Complying'.

'Human Distancing'.

Specific components of these conceptions are detailed through 'categories of description' which lend themselves to a structural framework referred to as an 'outcome space'. Through this 'outcome space' it becomes apparent that for the year seven students who participated in this research project, environmental education is, at is best irrelevant, and at its worst depressing. For the goals of environmental education and those who aspire and work towards meeting those goals, this 'cumulative movement of action (environmental education) toward a later result' as noted by Dewey and quoted above, appears to be growing in the wrong direction.

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ID Code: 16008
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Lidstone, John & Macpherson, Ian
Keywords: environmental education, conceptions, phenomenography, environmentalism, curriculum, pedagogy
Department: Faculty of Education
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Copyright Owner: Copyright Michael Nagel
Deposited On: 03 Dec 2008 03:55
Last Modified: 28 Jun 2017 14:40

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