ERIC Identifier: ED259940
Publication Date: 1985-00-00
Author: Disinger, John F.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse for
Science Mathematics and Environmental Education Columbus OH.
Instruction in Awareness of Environmental Issues. ERIC/SMEAC
Environmental Education Digest No. 1.
The National Commission for Environmental Education Research (NCEER),
established in 1980 by the National Association for Environmental Education (now
the North American Association for Environmental Education, NAEE) to gather and
examine the rapidly growing body of environmental education research literature,
has released its second report, A SUMMARY OF ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION RESEARCH
1971-1982 (Iozzi 1984).
This Digest is abridged from a section of a chapter on "Environmental
Education Research Related to Issue Awareness" from the 1984 NCEER Report
(Wiesenmayer and others 1984). Only the section of the paper dealing with
instructional strategies for developing awareness of environmental issues is
In the traditional classroom setting, research reported by the NCEER
summaries examined the effectiveness of curricula and methods for presenting
knowledge of environmental issues using approaches such as an interdisciplinary
model, simulations, and games.
Experimental research conducted by Bryant and Hungerford (1977) evaluated a
kindergarten unit which focused on understanding the term "environment" and
associated pollution problems and their remediation. Results indicated that
kindergarten children can form concepts concerning environmental issues and
citizenship responsibility with respect to those issues. Not only were these
children able to identify actions which they themselves could take, but also
many of the children were able to identify actions which adults could take.
According to the researchers, environmental education at the kindergarten level
can result in some fairly sophisticated conceptual behavior on the part of the
USE AND ABUSE OF WILDERNESS
The effects of an environmental unit on upper elementary students' concepts
and knowledge about woodlands and associated environmental problems were studied
by Gross and Pizzini (1979). The unit was presented for two months prior to a
field trip to a preserve. Seventy fifth-grade students were randomly selected
from a population of 295 for pre-testing. The remaining students received the
post-test, along with 85 sixth-grade students who had received the treatment one
The researchers reported that the treatment resulted in a more positive
student orientation about use and abuse of wilderness. However, history and
maturation effects were not controlled in this study. Also noted was a change in
sensory and affective awareness of a natural community resulting from the
one-day field trip. To maximize the effects of the limited time spent in the
field, the authors recommended classroom instructional activities to facilitate
concept formation prior to a field experience.
The effectiveness of a project designed to enhance awareness of environmental
issues was researched by DeLuca, Kiser, and Frazer (1978). Seventy-five males
and 75 females from each grade level, 10 through 12, and 100 males and 100
females from each grade level, 4 through 9, were randomly selected to
participate. A nearby school without a similar program served as the control
group. Environmental knowledge and attitude tests were administered at all grade
levels following instruction; statistically significant differences, favoring
the experimental group, were found between the groups.
The effects of using an interdisciplinary approach as opposed to a
traditional approach for examining problems were addressed by Hepburn (1978).
Her findings revealed differences in post-test scores between science/social
studies modules of instruction involving ninth-grade and slower tenth grade
students. Comparisons were made at each grade level across four treatments: a
science module, a social studies module, an interdisciplinary module, and a
control treatment. Results indicated that the interdisciplinary treatment groups
attained the highest mean gain scores.
The effectiveness of a problem-solving module in aiding participants in
understanding and solving environmental problems was examined by Andren (1979),
who used community college students as the study sample. The problem-solving
model consisted of 21 questions grouped into six areas of problem
identification, historical context, and proposing and testing solutions. An
analysis of the contents of the students' investigative reports indicated that
the experimental group discussed economics, law, transportation issues, and
population issues to a significantly greater extent than did the control group.
It was concluded that this model was useful in systematically focusing students'
attention on some of the necessary components of environmental problem-solving.
In a descriptive study by Supreka and Harms (1977), two methods of presenting
environmental education were compared to determine their effects on students'
knowledge and attitudes toward energy and environmental issues. Eight teachers
used an inquiry (non-values-oriented) approach, and eight others used a
values-oriented approach to teach a six-week environmental education unit to
more than 600 high school students. Both treatments were found to produce
significant cognitive gains, compared to the control classes. The authors
suggested that there was no difference in students' gains in knowledge between
the two approaches and only a slight difference in attitudes toward
Case's study (1979) to determine the effect of an integrated eight-week
environmental education curriculum integrated into the regular school curriculum
revealed opposite findings, however. In his study, sixth-grade students of a
Seventh-Day Adventist School were randomly selected and assigned to three
Group A was treated with an integrated curriculum for five weeks, one week of
a resident field experience, and an additional two weeks of integrated classroom
curriculum. Group B was treated with only the integrated curriculum for eight
weeks; Group C acted as a control, receiving no environmental curriculum
activities. A test was constructed to measure environmental knowledge. On the
knowledge test, statistically significant differences in favor of the B group
were found in comparisons with Group A and with Group C. No significant
differences were found between Groups A and C.
Studies that examined the effects of outdoor environmental programs found
statistically significant changes in campers' knowledge of environmental issues.
Chitwood (1977) found changes in environmental knowledge resulting from a
camping experience. In her study, the effects on 58 enrollees of an eight-week
session at a Youth Conservation Camp (YCC) were measured to determine the
relationship, if any, between and among environmental knowledge, locus of
control, and environmental attitudes. Pre- and post-tests were administered to
detect the extent of changes in the variables. Statistical analysis indicated
that significant changes, in a positive direction, were attained in
environmental knowledge and environmental attitudes, but not in locus of
A study of Davis, Doran, and Farr (1980) supports Chitwood's findings: 14,796
YCC campers from 194 camps were sampled to assess their environmental awareness
before and after their camp experience. Each camper completed a questionnaire
either before or after the camp experience. Of the eleven domains of goals
developed, six knowledge domains showed statistically significant gains, as did
the attitudinal domain. Reliability of the tests and homogeneity of the domains
Based on the results of the studies reviewed above, Wiesenmayer and his
--Traditional classroom instruction can increase students' environmental
--Interdisciplinary approaches for examining environmental problems seem to
be more effective than traditional approaches
--Simulation games tend to be enjoyed by the participants but may not be as
effective in teaching environmental concepts or in forming positive attitudes as
--A combination of classroom instruction and field trips may be a very
effective means of increasing students' knowledge of environmental issues
--Field trips appear to have the most impact on student learning when
occurring prior to classroom instruction
--Resident outdoor environmental learning activities can increse students'
knowledge of environmental issues
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Andren, Richard Johnson. "The Use of a Problem-Solving Model in Environmental
Education." Ph.D. dissertation, Columbia University Teachers College, 1979.
DISSERTATION ABSTRACTS INTERNATIONAL, 39 (12):7263-A
Bryant, Covey K., and Harold R. Hungerford. "An Analysis of Strategies for
Teaching Environmental Concepts and Values Clarification in Kindergarten."
JOURNAL OF ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION 9 (1977):44-49.
DeLuca, Frederick P., Luther L. Kiser, and Kenneth F. Frazer. "Environmental
Education and the Interrelationships among Attitudes, Knowledge, Achievement,
and Piagetian Levels." In CURRENT ISSUES IN ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION IV, edited
by Arthur B. Sacks and others. ED 167 407.
Gross, Michael P., and Edward L. Pizzini. "The Effects of Combined Advance
Organizers and Field Experience on Environmental Orientations of Elementary
School Children." JOURNAL OF RESEARCH IN SCIENCE TEACHING 16 (1979):325-331.
Hepburn, Mary A. "Environmental Knowledge and Attitude Changes in a High
School Program of Interdisciplinary Social Studies and Science Education." In
CURRENT ISSUES IN ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION IV, edited by Arthur B. Sacks and
others. ED 167 407.
Iozzi, Louis A., editor. A SUMMARY OF RESEARCH IN ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION
1971-1982. Columbus, OH: ERIC Clearinghouse for Science, Mathematics, and
Environmental Education, 1984.
Supreka, Douglas P., and Norris Harms. "A Comparative Evaluation of
Values-Oriented and Non-Values-Oriented Environmental Education Materials, Final
Report." Boulder, CO: Social Science Education Consortium, 1977. ED 175 177.
Wiesenmayer, Randall L., Maureen A. Murrin, and Audrey N. Tomera.
"Environmental Education Research Related to Issue Awareness." In A SUMMARY OF
ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION RESEARCH 1971-1982, edited by Louis A. Iozzi. Columbus,
OH: ERIC Clearinghouse for Science, Mathematics, and Environmental Education,