Date of Award

Spring 5-2014

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Department

Education & Educational Psychology

First Advisor

Karen Burke, CSJ, EdD

Second Advisor

Harry Rosvally, EdD

Third Advisor

Suzanne Franck, PhD

Abstract

Schools today are commissioned to provide students with a solid foundation in global citizenship. Future leaders must be knowledgeable problem solvers who can apply those skills to better the world. An awareness of global issues along with a sense of urgency and strength to act are needed for the welfare of all. The achievement of these goals must promote active involvement both at the personal and community levels. This research study investigated the factors related to the long-term environmental literacy skills of students who attended a school with an international and global studies curriculum. Within that curriculum, focus was placed on the pressing environmental issues that challenge our world. Students were not taught using a curriculum-based program but rather were active participants and problem solvers within a school culture that stressed environmental responsibility. One goal of this work was to investigate whether this type of schooling environment contributed to the long-term environmental literacy skills related to a student’s knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors.

The role of educators is continually changing. As accountability for performance on standardized tests increases there is less time for instruction in the sciences, particularly environmental sciences in the elementary years. A model that combines knowledge building, active participation, and problem solving in developing a school culture of respect and responsibility for the environment may be the most promising and realistic. This research examined the environmental literacy levels of middle school students who participated in a school with an embedded environmental education focus at the elementary school level (Group One) and middle school students who had not participated in a school with an embedded environmental focus at the elementary school level (Group Two). A MANOVA was conducted with a final data set of 218 students. The composite dependent variate was not significantly affected by group (Wilksλ = .955, F (4, 213) = 2.529, p = .042, partial eta squared = .045, small). Despite the non-significant MANOVA F, the researcher proceeded with analysis of the F ratios for the ANOVAs. In this case, the possibility of committing a Type 2 error lead to the researcher’s decision to cautiously continue analysis. Univariate ANOVAs were conducted on each dependent measure to determine whether significant differences existed between the groups. The more stringent p value of .025 was utilized in the analysis. Ecological knowledge was significantly affected by group (Group One and Group Two), F (1, 216 = 9.538, p = .002, partial eta squared = .042). Lengths of time in the program and away from the program were also investigated as variables related to environmental literacy scores. Regression results were not significant F (2,101) = 1.0, p = .372, R2 < .001 indicating that neither of the two independent variables of time were significant predictors of total environmental literacy scores. A deeper understanding of social variables of family, culture, and community was achieved through semistructured interviews. Students described family relationships and practices as well as activities that promoted environmental affect as being prominent in their lives. Being part of organizations that fostered character building and social responsibility were also significant. They reported that their own personal connections and pro-environmental feelings as well as associating with like-minded peers was important to them. These findings can add to a body of research used for curriculum planning and school programming in the field of environmental education.

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