30 SES 05.5 PS, General Poster Session
General Poster Session
Many studies reported positive impacts of outdoor environmental education programs (OEEPs) on students’ environmental attitudes and behavior (Rickinson, 2001; Manoli et al., 2014; Bogner & Wiseman, 2004; Ferreira, 2012). However, the practice of outdoor environmental education programs offered by nature centers often suffers from poor theoretical support for their intervention strategies (Rickinson et al., 2004; Hungerford, 2005; Hill, 2013). To overcome the theory-practice gap, a network of seven organizations representing national networks designed the Real World Learning Model (RWL) defining six mutually interconnected elements for effective OEEPs aiming to promote environmental behavior: understanding, transferability, experiential learning, empowerment, values, and framing (RWL, 2015). However, while these elements are based on relevant theory (e.g., Crompton, 2010; Crompton & Kaser, 2010; Jensen & Schnack, 1997; Wals, 2012; Johnson, 2003), they have not previously been empirically tested yet.
In the presentation, we present the initial findings of a larger study focusing on the practice of OEEPs. Specifically, we focus on the qualitative analysis of how the instructional strategies reflecting the RWL principles were applied in two OEEPs focusing on the promotion of elementary school students’ environmental values and affinity with nature. In addition, we analyzed how these strategies were reflected by participating students, teachers, and program leaders. Both programs were 5-day long outdoor residential programs organized in natural settings.
Each of the programs was observed by two independent observers who noticed how selected RWL instructional strategies were applied, e.g., what values were communicated by the program leaders, what opportunities students had to learn from their direct experience, what meaning was attributed to the program by the leaders for a frame analysis, etc. To obtain the perspective of all of the stakeholders, we collected data from interviews with six teachers and eight program leaders and organized two focus groups (N=30) with 6-8 9-12 year old students. In addition, we analyzed data from post-tests from all of the participating students two weeks after the programs (N=132).
According to our findings, while both of the programs were perceived highly positively by students and teachers, we found a few contradictions between the leaders’ intentions and their actual practice. Although the leaders’ intention was to promote pro-environmental values and behavior, the leaders of one of the programs repeatedly promoted values of achievement, associated with a tendency toward egoistic behavior by Schwartz (1994, 2012). Another interesting finding was leaders’ interpretation of “experience” as something that needs to be strong and significant for shaping students’ lives in future, not as an opportunity for learning during the program. Further results, connected with applications of the other RWL principles (frames, transferability, empowerment) are discussed.
Finally, the presentation provides implications for the further practice and research of OEEP’s.
For the analysis, we compared two 5-day long residential outdoor environmental education programs (OEEP) offered for students of elementary schools (4th-7th graders) by two environmental education centers. Both of the programs aimed to influence students’ affinity with nature, environmental values, and pro-environmental behavior. Each of them was situated in natural settings. Each of the programs were observed by two independent observers for two different groups of students. The observers watched all of the program activities and recorded their field notes based on observation of applied instructional strategies and students’ reactions. Specifically, the observers focused on the set of sensitizing concepts associated with the RWL model: frames, values, transferability, experience, and empowerment. For the frames, the observers recorded what overlying stories or metaphors are applied for meaning-making of the whole programs and for increasing the integrity of its activities. For values, the observers recorded all the program leaders value-laden comments communicated to the participants. The values were further analyzed and categorized according to the Schwartz (2012) model of universal values. For transferability, the observers recorded all the incidents when leaders made intentional connections on the spatial, personal, or time scale. For experience, observers noticed the way leaders utilized outdoor settings, promoted direct interaction with nature, provided opportunities for students’ reflection and transfer into their lives. For empowerment, observers recorded the scope of students’ opportunity to shape the program by their own decisions and incidents of encouragement for pro-environmental behavior by leaders. Furthermore, 6 interviews with teachers, 8 interviews with program leaders, and 4 focus groups with students (2 weeks after the program) were conducted. The adult respondents were asked what they thought about the importance of investigated RWL strategies and how they evaluated their application in the programs. Focus groups with students focused more generally on how they perceived the program, what they liked and disliked, and how the program differed from their school classes. In addition, posttests from all of the students participating in the program were collected two weeks after the program. In the posttests, students were asked about their perception of selected RWL strategies (e.g., what opportunity they had to shape the program by their own decision, if they had enough time to reflect their experience, etc.). We applied methods of thematic analysis in which data segments were coded as properties of pre-defined categories.
Our findings revealed the difficulties connected with leading outdoor environmental education programs aiming to change environmental values and behavior of primary school students. Particularly, while teachers and leaders agreed with the importance of the recommended instructional strategies, there were large differences between how they are defined in the RWL model, how they were interpreted by each of the groups, and how they were implemented in the OEEPs. While leaders believed in the importance of framing their programs by a connecting story, we found discrepancies between their intention and practice, when either the existing frame was not reflected by students or two competing frames were used in one program. Although the leaders declared their intention to promote values of universalism, they repeatedly communicated the values of achievement, promoting egoistic rather than altruistic behavior (Schwartz, 1994, 2012). Although some of the teachers highlighted the importance of “learning from experience”, according to the prevailing interpretation the “experience” is seen as the source of strong, significant feelings, supposedly shaping students’ lives in the future. Accordingly, leaders often reduced the opportunities for reflection and so compromised the potential effect of students’ experience on their learning. Reported belief in the importance of strong experience might also explain the orientation on “now and here”, and the lack of transferability observed at one of the programs. Finally, while all of the respondents believed the programs provided students with adequate opportunities to shape the program activities by their own decisions, both of the programs were evaluated as highly instrumental by all of the observers, when students had no real choice to influence anything more than how to accomplish the assigned tasks. In light of this, we assume that the practice of OEEP’s still needs to be reconsidered and the importance of recommended strategies further tested.
Bogner, F.X. & Wiseman, M. (2004). Outdoor Ecology Education and Pupil’s Environmental Perception in Preservation and Utilization. Science Education Journal, 15(1), 27-48. Crompton, T. (2010). Common cause. The case for working with our cultural values. Retrieved from http://assets.wwf.org.uk/downloads/common_cause_report.pdf Crompton, T., & Kaser, T. (2010). Human identity: A missing link to environmental campaigning. Environment, 52(4), 23-33. Ferreira, S. (2012). Moulding urban children towards environmental stewardship: the Table Mountain National Park experience. Environmental Education Research, 18(March 2013), 251–270. http://doi.org/10.1080/13504622.2011.622838 Hill, A. (2013). The Place of Experience and the Experience of Place : Intersections Between Sustainability Education and Outdoor Learning. Australian Journal of Environmental Education, 29(1), 18–32. https://doi.org/10.1017/aee.2013.13 Hungerford, H.R. (2005). The Myths of Environmental Education – Revisited. In Hungerford, H.R., Bluhm, W.J., Volk, T.L., & J.M. Ramsey (Eds.). Essential Readings in Environmental Education. Champaign: Stipes. P. 49-56. Jensen, B. B., & Schnack, K. (1997). The Action Competence Approach in Environmental Education. Environmental Education Research, 3(2), 163–178. doi:10.1080/1350462970030205 Johnson, B. (2003). The role of experience in understanding, feeling, and processing. Zeitschrift Für Erlebnispädagogik, 23(5/6): 5-13. Manoli, C. C., Johnson, B., Hadjichambis, A. C., Hadjichambi, D., Georgiou, Y., & Ioannou, H. (2014). Evaluating the impact of the Earthkeepers Earth education program on children’s ecological understandings, values and attitudes, and behaviour in Cyprus. Studies in Educational Evaluation, 41, 29–37. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.stueduc.2013.09.008 Schwartz, S. H. (1994). Are there universal aspects in the structure and content of human values? Journal of Social Issues, 50, 19–45. Schwartz, S. H. (2012). An Overview of the Schwartz Theory of Basic Values An Overview of the Schwartz Theory of Basic Values, 2, 1–20. Rickinson, M. (2001). Learners and Learning in Environmental Education: a critical review of the evidence. Environmental Education (Vol. 7). http://doi.org/10.1080/1350462012006523 Rickinson, M., Dillon, J., Teamey, K., Morris, M., Choi, M. Y., Sanders, D., & Benefield, P. (2004). A review of research on outdoor learning. National Foundation for Educational Research and King’s College London. Retrieved from https://www.field-studies-council.org/media/268859/2004_a_review_of_research_on_outdoor_learning.pdf The Real World Learning (2015). Real world learning model. Retrieved from http://www.rwlnetwork.org/rwl-model.aspx Wals, A. (2012). Learning our way out of unsustainability: the role of environmental education. In Clayton, S. The Oxford Handbook of Environment and Conservation. Oxford: Oxford university press, pp. 628–644.
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