30 ONLINE 26 B, Inclusion and Social Justice in ESE
MeetingID: 960 2594 1643 Code: p1iVuR
One of the central research questions of environmental and sustainability education is what factors influence peoples’ environmental behaviours. Palmer and Nael’s (2000) classic research examining the life histories of successful environmentalists found the following influencing factors: Natural experiences (mentioned by 90% of respondents), school, education (60%), family (40%), NGOs (40%), TV media (25 %), friends, others (25%), trips abroad, disasters (20%), books (15%), parenthood (10%), animal husbandry, hobbies, religion (5%). Our research is focusing on three aspects of the social environment from the list above: schooling, family, and friends. The student's overall socialization environment plays a role in the success of environmental and sustainability education, however, the environmental and sustainability socialization effect is not conscious in many cases. As social psychology points out, people adopt the value system of a culture and patterns of behaviours without considering the possibility of change (Hunyady, 1996), and pass on these patterns to the next generations unintentionally. That’s why our main research question is how students’ environmental awareness is associated with the frequency of involvement in environmental and sustainability-related activities, programs, and communications within their education and with their families and friends.
The literature on environmental and sustainability education basically points out the positive effects of environmental educational interventions (Zelezny, 1999), the influence of family and friends on adolescents’ pro-environmental behaviours (Collado, 2019), and identifies environmental education and interpersonal factors among the determinants of green behaviours (Varela-Candamio et al., 2018).
According to many previous research projects, environmental attitudes are among the main mediating variables between pro-environmental behaviours and the social and information inputs regarding environmental issues (e.g., Grob, 1995; Liu et al., 2020).
Regarding schooling and environmental attitudes, previous research projects also proved that their relationship with pro-environmental behaviour is not a simple linear correlation. More environmental education does not always lead to more committed pro-environmental behaviour, for example, because not all type of environmental education activities in school has the same effectivity and there could be even counterproductive environmental activities in schools (Staples et al., 2019; Csonka, 2020). Moreover, there is a very long research tradition that questions the overall meaning of schooling. As early as 1926 Good wrote about too much schooling (Good, 1926) and recently Caplan states that “schooling is a waste of time and money” in the subtitle in his book (Caplan, 2019).
There are also recent critical approaches regarding the associations of environmental attitudes. On the basis of their meta-analyses, Marcinowski and Reid (2019) argued to leave behind the simple knowledge-attitude-behaviour approach of environmental education and to pay special attention to methodological, moderating, and mediating factors.
On the other hand, it should be mentioned that schooling and socialization are so interconnected today that there is a growing tendency to apply reverse socialization approaches in which schools try to increase the environmental awareness of parents through their children (Singh, 2020).
This paper intends to be a contribution to reveal some elements of the complex relationship between the different areas of socialization and pro-environmental behaviours.
The Sustainability Thematic Week (STW) is a national education for sustainable development (ESD) program in Hungary annually organized since 2016. STW is announced by the Ministry of Human Capacities with topics related to the different Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) each year. In order to support the ESD work of the schools, the organizer of the Thematic Week (PontVelem Nonprofit Ltd.) provides lesson plans and projects to schools and invites them to collaborate with organizations and to participate in national environmental actions and competitions. In 2021 more than two-fifths of the schools in Hungary, 1630 schools joined the Thematic Week. In the framework of the STW, a research program was launched which aims to provide empirical data on the effect and for the development of the STW. An anonymous online questionnaire was completed by primary and secondary school students. The questionnaire was open to every Hungarian speaking student and the Educational Authority asked the school to help the research by encouraging students to complete the questionnaire, furthermore, it was also promoted during the event of the Sustainability Thematic Week. A total of (n=) 17746 responses of students was included in the analysis. The respondents were in the 10-21 age group, the average of their age (M=) was 14.22 years (SD=2.22) and most of them were 12 years old. The gender ratio was unbalanced, with girls in the majority (boy: 43.4%; girl: 56.6%). The questionnaire involved a list of 11 pro-environmental behaviours (like saving water, avoiding one-way packages), which children could choose from a list to indicate if they realize them recently or plan to realize them in the next year. To assess environmental attitudes and worldviews, we used the translated version of NEP Scale for Children (Manoli, Johnson, & Dunlap, 2007). Four items were administrated about how frequently the student meets environmental themes in formal and non-formal school settings, in their families, and among their peers. The research program in 2021 was conducted under the ethical permission (number: 2021/192.) of the Research Ethics Committee of ELTE Eötvös Loránd University, the Faculty of Pedagogy and Psychology. The data were collected by the questionnaire software of Pixrating Ltd., and analysed using the SPSS version 28.0.
The results showed a significant relationship of the reported frequency of environmental education (EE) activities in formal or non-formal school settings, conversations with family members and friends with pro-environmental behaviour and plans. In the case of family and friends, the groups reporting more frequent environment-related communication showed significantly more pro-environmental actions and plans. In contrast, in the case of environmental education (EE) activities in formal school settings, the strongest pro-environmental behaviour was found in the groups reporting EE activities organized with moderate frequency. Interestingly, the frequencies of activities in formal school settings and the frequency of environmental-related communication within the family and friends have different relationship patterns with different NEP subscales. For example, the lowest scores of Questioning of Human Intervention, Rights of Nature, and Eco-Crisis subscales were found in the group reporting activities in formal school settings organized with highest, lowest, and moderate frequency, respectively. Between the groups by the frequency of environment-related communication in families, we found no difference in Questioning of Human Intervention, but regarding Rights of Nature and Eco-Crises subscales, the group reporting the greatest frequency showed higher scores than any other group. Regarding the environmental-related communication with friends, the lowest scores of Questioning of Human Intervention, Rights of Nature, and Eco-Crisis subscales were found in the group whose members took environment-related conversation often, never, and never, respectively. In summary, it could be stated that although communication with family and peers about environmental issues does not have a coherent association with environmental attitudes, showed clearly positive associations with pro-environmental behaviour. However, this could not be stated concerning schooling, as in the case of school there seemed to be a saturation level above which too much environment-related activity leads to lower pro-environmental behaviour outside the school.
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