Developing and evaluating a socially critical approach to environmental education at philosophical and methodological levels in higher education

Plant, M., 2001. Developing and evaluating a socially critical approach to environmental education at philosophical and methodological levels in higher education. PhD, Nottingham Trent University.

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This study seeks to answer the following question;

To what extent can I establish a sound theoretical basis for realising socio-cultural and ecological sustainability through a Masters course in environmental education?

This question arises from two main interests in connection with my role as tutor and course director of an MA in Environmental Education distance education course. Firstly, I am interested in whether the philosophical and methodological principles embodied in the MA course texts and learning processes are compatible with my students' professional aspirations related to their socio-cultural norms and ecological realities; and, moreover, whether a critically inspired but pragmatic curriculum theory of environmental education can make clear its moral, social, political and ecological imperatives.

In deriving insights into the research question, I have adopted a reflexive research process underpinned by a critical realist philosophy and a critical action research methodology (Chapter 2). Both the philosophy and the methodology help inform the pedagogical issues relating to socially critical approaches to environmental education in Chapter 3, and the conceptual issues relating to environmentally-related concepts such as sustainability and development in Chapter 4. Following a justification for a critical action research approach to researching my praxis as an environmental educator, I evaluate my students' understanding of these issues and concepts, and of my professional role in the process, through an analysis of a number of 'critical encounters' with them in Chapter 6.

In Chapter 7, I offer four main insights that may be of value to researchers in higher education who are interested in critically inspired approaches to environmental education.

1. The AM in Environmental Education course encourages students to become key agents in their own learning since the course materials stimulate their reflection and action about issues that are relevant to their particular socio-political contexts;

2. A dialogical and individualised tutor-student learning framework, gives students confidence in translating the course processes and content into programmes that have relevance to their professional contexts.

3. By using critical action research to consider fundamental ways of thinking about their own motivations and worldviews, it is possible for students to apply a critical theory of environmental education in improving their praxis, and to examine the underlying political and economic forces responsible for ecological and social harms in their communities.

4. Critical realism offers me a philosophical perspective for collaborative and mutually enhancing learning with my students, and that recognises the significance of establishing dialectical relations with the biophysical world.

Item Type: Thesis
Creators: Plant, M.
Date: 2001
ISBN: 9781369316056
Divisions: Professional Services > Libraries and Learning Resources
Record created by: Linda Sullivan
Date Added: 24 Sep 2020 15:42
Last Modified: 23 Aug 2023 12:14

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