30 SES 10 B, Higher Education and Sustainability
In the context of education for sustainable development, the key role is given to (future) teachers as the most important actors of change and promotion of sustainable development (UNESCO, 2015). They are perceived not only as professionals in their field of work, but also as individuals with social responsibility and models of learning with a public educational function (Bertschy et al., 2013; Rauch & Steiner, 2013). The (student) teachers are expected to have: (I) knowledge of the most important sustainability issues and topics, (II) skills to act in a sustainable way, and (III) attitudes and values that direct them to act sustainably (UNESCO, 2017). Previous research has most often focused on (student) teachers’ attitudes towards sustainable development, as well as their knowledge on the subject (e.g., Boon, 2011, 2016; Borg et al., 2014; Burmeister and Eilks, 2013; Esa, 2010; Tuncer et al., 2009). Rarely research focused on (student) teachers’ sustainable behavior. When so, the focus was on only one aspect of sustainable behavior: pro-environmental behavior (e.g., Borges, 2019; Boubonari et al., 2013; Esa, 2010; Pe’er et al., 2007). So why is it important to understand if our (student) teachers are behaving in a sustainable manner? It is believed that teachers, in order to be able to successfully implement education for sustainable, should lead a so-called sustainability lifestyle that is characterized not only by having knowledge and positive attitudes toward sustainable development, but also by behaving in a sustainable way (Sleurs, 2008; Rauch & Steiner, 2013). Building on the Theory of Social Learning (Bandura, 1976), which posits that students learn new behaviors by observing their teachers’ behaviors, teachers are perceived as models of social learning. By modelling positive behaviors toward environment and society, teachers have the power to indirectly influence students’ (sustainable) behaviors. In other words, what teacher is teaching (about sustainability) should be in accordance with his behavior. Therefore, the main focus of the present research is sustainable behavior of student teachers.
Sustainable behavior is mostly considered synonymous with pro-environmental behavior, aimed at protecting the natural environment. However, the starting point of this research was an integral definition of sustainable behavior, which defines it as a set of human activities aimed at preserving and protecting the physical and social environment, therefore contributing to the quality of life of present and future generations without endangering the biosphere resources (Corral – Verdugo et al., 2011). Tapia-Fonllem et al. (2013) proposed a model that depicts sustainable behavior as consisting of four types of behaviors: pro-ecological, frugal, altruistic and equitable. Pro-ecological behaviors are aimed at preserving and conserving of natural resources (e.g. recycling, water conservation, energy-saving behaviors). Frugal behaviors are perceived as a fundamental behavioral characteristic of a sustainable lifestyle. They are antagonist to consumerism and refer to a decreased level of consumption. Altruistic behaviors are aimed at maximizing others’ benefits with little interests in gains for oneself. Sustainable behaviors in general are often perceived as altruistic considering that all of those types of behaviors are driven by the idea of having repercussions on others’ integrity and well-being. Equitable behaviors refer to a set of actions that are aimed at achieving and preserving social, racial, economic, age and gender equity.
The aim of this study is to propose and test a model of sustainable behavior on a Croatian sample of student teachers. Tapia-Fonllem et al. (2013) proposed that sustainable behavior is directly predicted by intention to act, which, in turn is influenced by indignation and by affinity toward diversity. Authors also define happiness as an expected consequence of acting in a sustainable manner. We propose a further extension of Tapia-Fonllem et al. (2013) model by including two additional predictors of sustainable behavior: ascription of responsibility for dealing with sustainability issues and awareness of consequences of sustainability issues We expect that ascription of responsibility and perception of consequences will influence intention to act in a sustainable manner and therefore will have an indirect effect on sustainable behaviors of student teachers. Specific research objectives are: (I) to test the model of intercorrelations between proposed aspects of sustainable behavior (pro-environmental, frugal, altruistic and equitable behavior) allowing for the emergence of second-order factor (sustainable behavior), (II) to test the relationship between second-order factor (sustainable behavior) and intention to act in a sustainable manner, (III) to test the indirect effects of correlates (indignation, affinity towards diversity, ascription of responsibility and awareness of consequences) on sustainable behavior mediated by the intention to act and (IV) to test the association between sustainable behavior and participants' perceived happiness. The study is a part of a larger, mixed-method project “Formal Education in Service of Sustainable Development”, a 5-year long research project funded by Croatian Science Foundation, that began in 2018 and will run until 2023. This research involved 496 student teachers at the University of Rijeka, University of Pula and University of Split. Students completed a questionnaire (Tapia-Fonllem et al., 2013) measuring four aspects (types) of sustainable behavior: (I) pro-environmental behaviors, (II) frugal behaviors, (III) altruistic behaviors and (IV) equitable behaviors, and six correlates of sustainable behavior: (I) intention to act, (II) affinity for diversity, (III) indignation, (IV) happiness, (V) ascription of responsibility and (VI) awareness of consequences. The last two subscales are from the Questionnaire on Sustainable Behaviors (Juárez-Nájera, 2010; Anđić & Tatalović-Vorkapić, 2015). Results were analyzed using Structural Equation Modeling (SEM), using three parcels by studied construct. Ten first-order factors were constructed: indignation, intention to act, affinity toward diversity, perceived happiness, ascription of responsibility, awareness of consequences, frugal, altruistic, equitable and pro-ecological behavior. The latter four were the indicators of a second-order factor sustainable behavior.
Results obtained in this research point out that sustainable behaviors coherently emerge from the significant interrelations among their four first-order factors. Model indicates that sustainable behavior is directly predicted by intention to act, which in turn is positively and significantly influenced by indignation, affinity towards diversity, ascription of responsibility and awareness of consequences. Sustainable behaviors slightly predict self-assessment of happiness. The obtained values of the goodness-of-fit indices indicate that the model fit is good. Student teachers are more likely to behave in a sustainable manner when their levels of behavioral intention to act are higher and if they feel personal responsibility to solve sustainability issues, if they are aware of the consequences of sustainability problems, if the feel indignation and if they show an affinity to diversity in their everyday life. In turn, those student teachers who behave more sustainably are more satisfied with their life. The results support the idea that sustainable behavior is a unidimensional construct, meaning that one sustainable action is likely to lead to others. This is quite interesting in the context of educational efforts aimed at developing pro-social and pro-ecological actions. Fostering one type of sustainable development within the educational system could facilitate the manifestation of a different type of sustainable behavior. If we accept that it is absolutely necessary for teachers to exhibit sustainable behaviors in order to serve as a positive example for their students, then the importance of focusing on the development of antecedents of sustainable behavior through teacher education is quite evident. By encouraging the development of a sense of responsibility towards living beings and the environment as well as the development of solidarity and empathy, a step can be made in direction of fostering behaviors of student teachers needed to actively work toward the well-being of the entire living world.
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