Environmental Education Research [EER] has published a paper from the USA on practitioners’ perspectives on the purpose of environmental education. You can download it here. The Abstract says:

Since the 1980s, scholars have suggested that environmental education (EE) has a ‘definitional problem’ represented by a multiplicity of perspectives that have critically impacted its discourse, practices, and outcomes. This study sought to investigate how North American EE practitioners from backgrounds ranging from formal and non-formal institutions think about their work. We focused on folk narratives and emerging urban environmental concerns of community education rather than reliance on academic opinion alone.
Using Q methodology, the study identified five distinct perspectives that appear to represent different ways of prioritizing EE outcomes. All five perspectives were concerned with promoting sustainable living and improved human well-being, but the nuances suggest that an individual who adheres strongly to one may feel someone holding a contrasting perspective is working at cross-purposes. The authors suggest that understanding these perspectives can help reduce misunderstanding within

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the EE field.

The 5 perspectives are shown here, together with the what is prioritised:

  • Fundamental c0-existence

– prioritising sustainable human lifestyles (for all) through behaviour change interventions

  • Spiritual instrumentalism

– prioritising the making of spiritual connections between humans and all living beings

  • Moral stewardship

– prioritising a sense of ethical responsibility of humans to tackle environmental problems

  • Skilled community activism

– prioritising the empowerment of communities to address their needs, focusing on well-being and environmental justice

  • Social-ecological ethicists

– prioritising a view of nature as deserving of moral consideration, similar to that afforded to humans

We think there seems considerable overlap here, and some gaps. Of course, it’s not possible to represent the richness of the study in this short extract, but we wondered whether they manage to capture all facets of how people think about environmental education. Further, although the authors suggest that such perspectives can help reduce misunderstanding within the field, we think that possibility is open to considerable doubt.

Fraser J, Gupta R & Krasny ME (2015) Environmental Education Research 21(5) 777-800


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