30 SES 02 B, Innovative learning and learning for change
For over a half century, the UN declared education for sustainability (EfS) is a key in solving many educational, environmental and social issues affecting all nations (UNESCO/UNEP, 1977). The goal of EfS is to provide students with the skills to work towards sustainable development in all social and environmental contexts, to build a sustainable culture emphasizing the needs of the future, and to lead behavioral change for improving the social and environmental contexts. There is no doubt, pre-service teachers play an important role in reaching any of the EfS goals, especially as it applies to pre-service teachers’ beliefs in executing ideas of EfS in an environmental education course. Therefore, this study investigated the EfS self-efficacy predictors of 130 Israeli pre-service teachers in a required environmental education course. We applied three theoretical frameworks: EfS as a conceptual framework, self-efficacy theory, and educational constructivist versus positivist ontological perspectives. We conducted pilot and pre-post survey of Israeli pre-service teachers who were enrolled in EfS courses at one national teacher college institute. Our findings suggest that pedagogical knowledge and practical skills were the main self-efficacy predictor in promoting EfS. It is recommended implementing pedagogical knowledge training in pre-service EfS courses. The findings also suggest these EfS courses increased the pre-service teachers’ self-efficacy to teach for sustainability as these courses provided extra-curricular experiences that aided in this increase of self-efficacy. This study contributes to the understanding of the need in innovation in teacher education emphasizing pedagogical skills and not only content knowledge for promoting EfS.
Introduction or theoretical background
Education for Sustainability (EfS) is the innovative holistic views, encourages students to be involved in their environment, and fosters pro-environmental behavior (Tilbury, 1995). Environmental behavior can be classified into two categories: the ‘private sphere’—which generally refers to individual behaviors, such as recycling, that directly influence the environment—and the ‘public sphere’—which refers to social behaviors, such as donating money to environmental non-government organizations (NGO), that indirectly influence the environment.
The Self-Efficacy is based on social cognitive theory. Self-efficacy is “concerned with people’s beliefs in their capabilities to produce given attainments” (Bandura, 2006, p. 307). Furthermore, self-efficacy can predict behavioral change, as illustrated by teachers who believe in their ability to motivate students and thus produce the expected learning (Bandura, 2006).
Constructivist versus Positivist Ontological Perspectives. These dual pedagogical frameworks allow for an exploration of knowledge as related to EfS in two distinct ways. The constructivist notion of knowledge focuses on the production of knowledge through a student-centered approach, using methods such as experiential learning (Gordon, 2009). The positivist notion of knowledge emphasizes the need for core and general knowledge. It is important to provide broad knowledge to students by teaching general principles with diverse examples (Hirsch, 2001).
According to these three lenses, this study aimed to investigate whether EfS courses in a pre-service teacher education program promoted an increase in self-efficacy regarding EfS and pro-environmental behavior change. Below are the research questions that guided this study.
Does an EfS course act as a predictor in increasing pre-service teachers’ self-efficacy in promoting pro-environmental behaviors in the school and community?
How do instructors of EfS courses perceive their role in leading pro-environmental behavior change, developing skills to promote EfS, and constructing environmental knowledge in pre-service teachers?
We employed a mixed-methods design, using qualitative survey data from Israeli pre-service teachers, supplemented semi-structured interviews of course instructors and various document analysis. The quantitative survey of Israeli pre-service teacher training EfS courses (n=80) included 54 items on a Likert scale of 1 to 4 and proposed statements about the ability to promote education for sustainability and pro-environmental behavior. We examined reliability using Cronbach’s Alpha and used t-tests to identify the differences between high (>3) and low (<3) self-efficacy in promoting EfS. Our qualitative analysis included semi-structured interviews (approximately 60 minutes each) with five EfS course instructors. In addition, we analyzed 7 syllabi, 10 curricula, and 70 teaching material documents using an interpretive approach, by implying first and second cycle coding process (Saldana, 2009). The categories emerging from the interviews and documents analyses were environmental knowledge, environmental attitudes, pro-environmental behavior, and pedagogy. Main Statistic Description 1. Attitudes towards the environment were positive (Avr.=3.20). Most students thought that there is a connection between various factors (such as air pollution) and their influence on the environment. 2. Social-environmental attitudes were positive (Avr.=3.15). Most students reported that they believed that there is a connection between environmental, economic, and social issues. 3. The course’s contribution to students’ learning seemed to align with EfS theory. More than 83% thought that the course contributed to their knowledge about, awareness of, and understanding of key issues of sustainability. 4. When it came to skills needed to promote EfS, 81% of students thought that the course provided what was necessary to be successful. 5-6. Pro-environmental behavior in the public sphere (Avr.=1.86) was low compared to the pro-environmental behavior in the private sphere (Avr.=2.26). Multiple linear regressions show that skills significantly and positively predict self-efficacy. Students with a high level of self-efficacy (>3) in the class showed a statistically significant level of each of the six features mentioned above. Self-efficacy outside the classroom was statistically significant only for declared behaviors in the private and public spheres.
To address research question #1, multiple linear regressions show that skills significantly and positively predict self-efficacy. Pre-service teachers with a high level of self-efficacy within the classroom (>3) displayed a statistically significant level of the five features (Attitudes to environment; social environmental attitudes, foundational knowledge of EfS, foundational tools and skills for instruction; pro environmental behavior in private sphere). To address research question #2 all EfS instructors shared that the purpose of the course was not content knowledge construction but a deeper dive into building pedagogical knowledge in teaching for EfS, which is not the norm in pre-service teacher education courses. However, these same professors employed an implicit scientific approach in how they design, approached, and taught their courses, reflecting a positivistic approach. This creates a tension between the emphasis on fact-based, content knowledge during lectures and the use of constructivist pedagogical skills during experiential learning portion of the courses. In addition, results found gaps between pre-service teachers’ attitudes and their actual pro-environmental behaviors. Their positive attitudes towards the environment were higher than their willingness to act on improving environmental conditions in the private and public spheres. These findings were in contrast to the instructors’ beliefs that changing attitudes will lead to pro-environmental behaviors. This study found that pedagogical skills were the main predictor for self-efficacy in promoting EfS, even though the instructors employed an implicit positivistic approach to pedagogical teacher education course. In order to ensure we prepare teachers for all learners, we must provide authentic experiences for them to employ various instructional strategies rather than constantly focusing on content knowledge. Specifically, environmental education courses, such as the EfS course, should be built with an emphasis on incorporating practical and pedagogical skills for implementing EfS, rather than the current standard of focusing on knowledge production (Davim & Leal, 2016).
Bandura, A. (2006). Guide for constructing self-efficacy scales. In F, Pajares and T Pajares, (Eds.), Self-Efficacy beliefs of adolescents (pp 307-337). Greenwich, CT: Information Age Publishing. Davim, J. P., & Leal, F. W. (2016). Challenges in higher education for sustainability: SpringerGordon, M. (2009). Toward a pragmatic discourse of constructivism: Reflections on lessons from practice. Educational studies, 45(1), 39-58. Hirsch, E. (2001). Seeking breadth and depth in the curriculum. Educational Leadership, 59(2), 22-25. Tilbury, D. (1995). Environmental education for sustainability: Defining the new focus of environmental education in the 1990s. Environmental Education Research, 1(2), 195-212.
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