Children as change agents for sustainability : an action research case study in a kindergarten

Stuhmcke, Sharon Marie (2012) Children as change agents for sustainability : an action research case study in a kindergarten. Professional Doctorate thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


At a time when global consumption and production levels are 25 percent higher than the Earth’s sustainable carrying capacity, there are worldwide calls to find ways to sustain the Earth for this and future generations. A central premise of this study is that education systems have an obligation to participate in this move towards sustainability and can respond by embedding education for sustainability into curricula. This study took early childhood education as its focus due to the teacherresearcher’s own concerns about the state of the planet, coupled with early childhood education’s established traditions of nature-based and child-centred pedagogy.

The study explored the experiences of a class of kindergarten children as they undertook a Project Approach to learning about environmental sustainability. The Project Approach is an adaptation of Chard’s work which is situated within a constructivist theoretical framework (Chard, 2011). The Project Approach involves in-depth investigations around an identified topic of interest. It has three phases: introductory, synthesising and culminating phase. The study also investigated the learning journey of the classroom teacher/researcher who broadened her long-held co-constructivist teaching approaches to include transformative practices in order to facilitate curriculum which embedded education for sustainability. While coconstructivist approaches focus on the co-construction of knowledge, transformative practices are concerned with creating change.

An action research case study was conducted. This involved twenty-two children who attended an Australian kindergarten. Data were collected and analysed over a seven week period. The study found that young children can be change agents for sustainability when a Project Approach is broadened to include transformative practices. The study also found that the child participants were able to think critically about environmental and sustainability issues, were able to create change in their local contexts, and took on the role of educators to influence others’ environmental behaviours. Another finding was that the teacher-researcher’s participation in the study caused a transformation of both her teaching philosophy and the culture at the kindergarten. An important outcome of the study was the development of a new curriculum model that integrates and has applicability for curriculum development and teacher practice.

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ID Code: 61005
Item Type: QUT Thesis (Professional Doctorate)
Supervisor: Davis, Julie & Ehrich, Lisa C.
Keywords: transformative education, early childhood education, environmental education, education for sustainability, co-constructivism, critical theory, action research case study, young children, kindergarten, project approach
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Education
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 28 Jun 2013 03:13
Last Modified: 10 Sep 2015 02:29

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