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The impact of an Education for Sustainability unit on the knowledge and attitudes of pre-service primary teachers at an Australian university

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-17, 10:43 authored by Taylor, N, Kennelly, J, Jenkins, K, Rosemary CallinghamRosemary Callingham

Environmental education in schools is seen as an important strategy in environmental improvement. The 'traditional' approach to environmental education has been to increase knowledge or raise awareness about the environment on the assumption that people would then be motivated to act towards the environment in a more responsible way (Hungerford & Volk, 1990; Kollmuss & Agyeman, 2002). Kelsey (2003) argues that this assumption is maintained today in programs delivered through the mass media as public education about environmental matters. However, the assumption that knowledge about the environment will lead to behavioural change has been criticised by a number researchers e.g. Fien (1993), Connell, Fien, Sykes and Yencken (1998), Elliott (1999) and Jensen (2002).

Criticism of traditional forms of environmental education have been accompanied by a call for a socially critical approach to this issue, one that seeks to provide students with the capacity to question and change environment-related practices. Huckle (1991) included the following characteristics in a description of socially critical environmental education:

• learning is active and experiential;

• students are encouraged to think critically;

• values education addresses the sources of social beliefs and values, how they are transmitted and the interests they support; and

• students engage in collaborative and democratic change processes.

This more socially critical approach to environmental education has been linked to the concept of sustainable development and has resulted in the emergence of education for sustainability or sustainable development. In fact Tilbury, Coleman and Garlick (2005) argue that socially critical theory underpins education for sustainability (EfS) as it should involve students in reflective thinking, democratic decision making, futures thinking and collaborative planning.


Publication title

Geographical Education








Faculty of Education


Australian Geography Teachers' Association Inc.

Place of publication


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Copyright 2006 Australian Geography Teachers' Association Inc.

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