30 SES 15 A, Systematic Reviews and ESE
The present work attempts to empirically categorise the nature of the relationship between scientific knowledge and Environmental and Sustainability Education (ESE) through the study of published research articles, and to raise questions about companion categories associated with this relationship (Garisson et al. 2015).
How science knowledge is treated in relation to ESE underpins a range of epistemic assumptions. It is precisely the role of knowledge, its capacity for generalisation or its situatedness in relation to social and political action (or inaction) which we use to problematise and explore. Through analysis of the texts, we aim to theorise this relationship in terms of building and using knowledge. In so doing we invite attention to the problematic connection between scientific knowledge and ESE.
Within a prominent vision of the relationship between science education and ESE, scientific knowledge is seen as axiologically neutral and epistemically privileged. In that vision, science in the curriculum would be distinct and mono-disciplinary (Korfiatis 2005).
An alternative vision would encompasses the relevance of science to coping with everyday science-related situations, for example, in assessing whether to buy energy-saving light bulbs. While the focus of the prominent vision is on the core principles, laws and theories of science, the alternative vision contextualises science through the lens of everyday life and focuses on the interface of decision-making between scientific activity and everyday social and personal issues. While it enables the incorporation of social and environmental aspects it retains an essentialised notion of science as a discipline, and it is difficult to see how such a conceptualisation of the curriculum can be incorporated in, say, socially just decision-making. It assumes that scientific knowledge can be applied to environmentally complex decision-making which has been shown to be problematic (Lee & Roth, 2003) in that it needs, for example, to challenge particular notions of expertise through distributed knowledge.
Finally, a third vision could be one that, within the context of the risk society (Beck 1992), knowledge of environmental issues is inherently uncertain and environmental issues are seen as both political and social problems. Within that vision actions on the environment are not susceptible to technical fixes but need to be conceptualised as an interdisciplinary socio-political project in which the political nature of the scientific practise, research and production is exposed and critiqued.
From a pedagogical point of view, prominent approaches lend themselves to knowledge measurement because that knowledge is bounded and generalisable, hence constructs of that knowledge can be articulated. Knowledge which transcends disciplinary boundaries and is socially distributed (nearer to alternative visions) cannot be evaluated with the same positivist instruments. How the relationship between science knowledge and ESE is described is therefore likely to be entangled with broader constructs, for example, learning theories, the role of agency, as well as more foundational commitments of anthropocentrism and ecocentrism. We suspect this relationship is complex, particularly in those texts which straddle the borders between different visions of ESE.
More specifically this study seeks to investigate the following questions:
What are the prominent visions of scientific knowledge in current ESE literature?
How this visions are associated with companion meanings such as an individualized vs a socially constructed type of knowledge; postivistics vs interpretivistic methodologies; fact-based vs normative vs pluralistic notions of knowledge?
We have chosen to focus on a range of literature published in Environmental Education Research and the Journal of Environmental Education over the eight years between 2011 to 2018 inclusive. Those studies which met the criteria of empirical research and epistemological links between science and ESE were selected. Half the articles were jointly read by both authors and assigned to categories of knowledge, methodology and selective traditions. Discrepancies were discussed and categories shifted and described in more detail. The categories were finally depicted after separate alignment and discussion of all the articles. Because our research is focused and non-exhaustive, it is not primarily quantitative. We discuss articles connecting scientific knowledge and ESE through empirical studies where primary data is collected as part of the research. In total, 115 articles constituted the body of our study. In order to analyse the role knowledge plays, we will look at the following descriptors: 1 Knowledge. We use two over-arching terms to refer to the ways in which knowledge is described in the articles. a. Individualised knowledge. This describes approaches where knowledge, constructed, applied or used, has an authoritative status, is constructed as a property of individuals or groups of individuals and lends itself to measurement. b. Socio-cultural knowledge. Approaches where knowledge is shared or distributed usually through a process of finding a solution to a shared problem. c. 2 Methodology. Inductive analysis of the articles reveals three dominant methodologies. a) Positivist. Where knowledge is measured and evaluated through pre-determined measurable categories. b) Interpretivist. Where categories for knowledge are constructed based on subjects’ interpretations of a phenomena or tasks. 3 Values of Scientific Knowledge Sund (2016) drawing on Sandell et al. (2005) identifies three selective traditions of science in the Swedish literature and educational practice in relation to environmental issues. We used these three traditions as categories of ‘values of scientific knowledge’ in our analysis. The fact-based tradition where environmental issues can be addressed through greater knowledge. This is broadly consistent with the technicist mode towards the environment. In the normative tradition environmental issues are seen mainly as value-driven which can be informed through scientific know-how. In the pluralist tradition, within the context of the risk society (Beck 1992) knowledge of environmental issues is inherently uncertain and environmental issues are seen as both political and social problems.
In reviewing the articles, we can recognise the polarities of Simonneaux’s hot/cold continuum (Simonneaux 2014). Most (84 in total) articles focus on individual cognition and pedagogies in correcting misconceptions – Sund’s fact-based tradition - as distinct from using knowledge to take action. These would be designated at the ‘cold’ end of the spectrum. The other end of the continuum highlights human agency and socio-political transformative action which are interdisciplinary closer to the ‘pluralist’ tradition (36 articles). But even these distinctions are not always straightforward, and the role of knowledge and cognition are problematic. Rather than place articles in separate categories a continuum helps to recognise nuances particularly at those edges of overlap and problematisation.. At the ‘cold’ end of the continuum there are those studies which characterise science knowledge in a very particular way in relation to ESE. These include articles which assess or evaluate individual, objective knowledge, or using construction of knowledge within the “knowledge-attitude-behaviour” framework. Identifying articles at the ‘hot’ end of the continuum is a more complex process. Knowledge is not reified as a measure to be quantified through pre-determined criteria but has a processual quality, emerging and transforming in relation to action taken by agents. Then, there are a few articles studying learning as sociocultural process and at the same time highlighting the importance of knowledge for developing agency, or for identity formation.
Beck, Ulrich (1992). Risk Society: Towards a New Modernity. Mark. London: Sage Publications. Garrison,J., Östman, L. & Håkansson, M. (2015) The creative use of companion values in environmental education and education for sustainable development: exploring the educative moment, Environmental Education Research, 21:2, 183-204, DOI:10.1080/13504622.2014.936157. Korfiatis, K. (2005) Environmental education and the science of ecology: exploration of an uneasy relationship, Environmental Education Research, 11:2, 235-248, DOI: 10.1080/1350462042000338388 Lee, S. & Roth, W-M. (2003). Science and the "Good Citizen": Community-Based Scientific Literacy. Science, Technology, & Human Values, 28, 403-424. Simonneaux L. (2014) From Promoting the Techno-sciences to Activism – A Variety of Objectives Involved in the Teaching of SSIs. In: Bencze J., Alsop S. (eds) Activist Science and Technology Education. Cultural Studies of Science Education, vol 9. Springer, Dordrecht. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-007-4360-1_6 Sund, P. (2016). Discerning selective traditions in science education: a qualitative study of teachers’ responses to what is important in science teaching. Cultural Studies of Science Education 11, 387–409. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11422-015-9666-8
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