Effective Environmental Education: The Need for Ethical Inquiry

By Justine Gallasch, Carol Collins and Sue Knight.

Published by The Sustainability Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Environmental decline at local, national and global levels is occurring at an alarming rate. If the environment is to be protected for future generations, environmental education must encourage and equip students to strive for sustainability. In this paper it is argued that effective environmental education requires that two general necessary conditions be met: first, that teachers operate with a ‘social transformation’ goal of education, and second, that teachers take seriously the goal of environmental education as that of equipping students to strive towards sustainability. Further, it is argued that a number of specific conditions must be met if environmental education is to be effective. That is, teachers must develop in students, knowledge and understanding of environmental problems, the causes of these problems, and possible solution strategies. Most importantly, they must develop in students the commitment to act to solve and prevent environmental problems. Critically, the development of such commitment is dependent on engaging students in the processes of ethical inquiry. This paper also includes a description of an empirical study designed to identify the extent to which these necessary conditions are met within the South Australian government primary school context.

Keywords: Environmental Education, Environmental Sustainability, Ethical Inquiry

The International Journal of Environmental, Cultural, Economic and Social Sustainability, Volume 3, Issue 4, pp.75-86. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 542.836KB).

Justine Gallasch

University of South Australia, Australia

Justine Gallasch completed her Bachelor of Education (Junior Primary/Primary) with First Class Honours at the University of South Australia. She has a strong interest in the Society and Environment curriculum area, which led her to undertake research in environmental education for her Honours thesis. Other professional interests include ethical inquiry and the use of community of inquiry teaching methodologies.

Dr Carol Collins

University of South Australia, Australia

Dr Carol Collins teaches and researches in the fields of social and environmental education, ethics and Philosophy for Children, in the School of Education, University of South Australia. Her recently completed doctoral research focuses on the development and evaluation of a dialogue-based educational programme designed to foster logical and ethical thinking, and which fits within the existing 'Society & Environment' curriculum. More generally, her work is concerned with the development of evaluativist thinking across all levels of schooling and in teacher education contexts. Carol currently serves as chair of the 'South Australian Association for Philosophy in the Classroom', and is actively involved in the newly formed 'Ethics Centre of South Australia'.

Dr Sue Knight

Lecturer, School of Education, Division of Education, Arts and Social Sciences, University of South Australia, Australia

Dr Sue Knight has a PhD in philosophy from Adelaide University and teaches and researches in the fields of ethics and Philosophy for Children in the School of Education, University of South Australia. Her focus is on teaching all branches of philosophy in primary and secondary schools. At present she has a special interest in ethical inquiry, the teaching of reasoning skills and values education. Her areas of specialisation within philosophy are metaphysics and the philosophy of science. Sue is a founding chair of the 'South Australian Association for Philosophy in the Classroom', and inaugural chair of the Senior Secondary Assessment Board of South Australia, Philosophy Advisory Committee. She is also actively involved in the newly formed 'Ethics Centre of South Australia'.

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