Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Educator Environmental Literacy: A Mixed-Methods Study of Behavior, Identity, and Practices
by Hunter, Roberta Howard, Ph.D., Rutgers The State University of New Jersey, School of Graduate Studies, 2019, 153; 22615072
Abstract (Summary)

Environmental literacy has had an evolving definition over the last fifty years, most recently including knowledge, personal dispositions, skills, and behavior (Hollweg, et al., 2011). This work expands on that framing to situate EL in social-ecological systems. This contextual perspective sees EL as changing participation in these social-ecological systems, includes socially constructed practices instead of skills, and views those practices as key to both boundary-crossing between social-ecological systems and progression across a continuum of EL (Stables, 1998). The purpose of this dissertation is to explore educator environmental literacy using this perspective, specifically, designing an assessment of educator EL which includes practices, and explore more deeply respondents’ answers to develop a robust view of New Jersey formal and nonformal educator EL.

This is accomplished using a mixed methods approach. First, the development, implementation, and analysis of the Teacher Environmental Literacy Assessment (TELA) is described. Interviews with a subset of formal and nonformal educators who completed the assessment provide more context to their TELA responses, using thematic analysis. Finally, a modified version of the TELA is used to place educators at one of three levels of EL: functional, cultural, or critical, using criteria that expand on Stables (1998). Then further thematic analysis is used to develop a picture of the relationship between EL level and issue identification and views on student EL.

While there were several demographic effects on TELA scale scores, most interestingly, nonformal educators had higher scores on knowledge, behavior, and the practices of issue identification and strategy selection. In addition, there was s difference between the types of strategies selected by experts and educators – experts more frequently chose system-level behaviors, and educators chose personal-level behaviors. This difference between system-level and personal-level behaviors is also present in those strategies educators choosing to address environmental issues in TELA scenarios (system-level) and the types of behaviors they report actually engaging in (personal-level). This appears to be connected to a rejection among some educators of “political” or “activist” identities. Finally, educators at more advanced levels of EL provide more elaborate, technical explanations for why they chose issues in the TELA scenarios, and include social considerations more frequently in decisions of where to site an electronics waste plant. They also see their role in student EL as developing more parts of EL, moving from dispositions to knowledge, practices, and connection.

These findings support the use of a contextual perspective, and serve as platform to further the study of EL in a way that pays attention to participation and practices to help move educators along a continuum of EL development. Recommendations for further research and practice include the study of educator EL enactment in instructional contexts and the development of deliberate communities that bring both pre-service and in-service teachers into contact with more experienced activists and educators.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Jordan, Rebecca C.
Commitee: Duncan, Ravit Golan, Ferraro, Carrie, Stevenson, Kathryn
School: Rutgers The State University of New Jersey, School of Graduate Studies
Department: Education
School Location: United States -- New Jersey
Source: DAI-A 81/7(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Environmental education, Environmental Studies
Keywords: Educators, Environmental issues, Environmental literacy, Identity, Teachers
Publication Number: 22615072
ISBN: 9781392715567
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