Experiential Education as a Best Practice Pedagogy for Environmental Education in Teacher Education
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This thesis examines the potential of experiential education as a 'best practice' pedagogy for pre-service teacher education in environmental education. The study involves forty pre-service teachers working collaboratively with the researcher in 1998 to test the assumptions of two previous groups of beginning teachers (1996 and 1997) who indicated in their course evaluations that experiential education may provide an effective teaching and learning approach for environmental education. This study combines two approaches to participative inquiry: action inquiry and cooperative inquiry. Both research approaches promote reflection-in-action and involve groups of individuals working collaboratively together as reflective practitioners. The data sources included reflective journals, a researcher diary, pre and post course questionnaires, individual interviews and group interviews. The environmental education course is a single case study and reflects the experience of three groups of students. The first group completed a 20 hour course in experiential education before starting the environmental education course, the second group completed both courses concurrently, while the third group only completed the environmental education course. The purpose of the literature review in experiential education and environmental education in teacher education is to provide a rationale for using a transformative teaching and learning approach in pre-service teacher education for environmental education. Contemporary best practice pedagogical approaches for environmental education are supported by many of the core principles of experiential education highlighting compatibility between theory and practice. The findings show that a transformative teaching and learning approach in environmental education was achieved by combining four key characteristics of experiential education in a holistic process. The four characteristics included reflection, connection to personal experience, emotionally engaged learning and student-centred teaching and learning. The impact of combining these four characteristics resulted in higher interest, motivation and enthusiasm for achieving the social action outcomes of environmental education. Thus, the pre-service teachers confirmed a synergy emerged between the outcomes of environmental education and the pedagogical process of experiential education. The experiential approach allowed the pre-service teachers to engage in the role of the critical reflective practitioner. Consequently, the pre-service teachers were able to identify the potential and possibilities for implementing experiential education strategies in environmental education and also recognise and challenge the barriers that confine and constrain its use in teacher education and formal schooling. As a consequence the pre-service teachers identified that working in collaborative groups of reflective practitioners was essential to continue developing effective facilitation skills and also to help them challenge traditional practice that limited their professional development. They also identified significant changes to the pre-service environmental education course to ensure a higher quality experience for subsequent groups of beginning teachers. The study highlights the need for more research into how well beginning teacher implementing environmental education function as reflective practitioners in their first few years in teaching and are able to challenge the barriers that limit transformative pedagogical approaches in schools.
Thesis (PhD Doctorate)
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Australian School of Environmental Studies
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