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Title: Teaching controversial environmental issues in 16-19 A level geography : possibilities and problems
Author: Fido, Deborah R. E.
ISNI:       0000 0001 3463 5694
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 1999
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Environmental issues are often controversial and involve a range of possible viewpoints or attitudes. They are poorly understood hi the general population and, even amongst well respected scientists, there is often little consensus as to the causes and effects of environmental problems. Teachers are sometimes accused of exacerbating this situation by indoctrinating children with simplistic 'green slogans', rather than teaching a deeper understanding of the complexity of the issues. However, the advice provided for teachers is contradictory: much of the literature on teaching environmental issues encourages teachers to promote pro-environmental attitudes or behaviour, whilst simultaneously encouraging independence of thought amongst their students. Literature on teaching environmental and other controversial issues suggests several possible teaching strategies, but all are open to criticism on varying grounds and therefore provide little in the way of guidance for teachers. This study examines the beliefs and practices of three experienced geography teachers in relation to teaching about controversial environmental issues in the Schools' Council 16-19 A level course. This course was one of the first to embrace the teaching of controversial environmental issues, and provides explicit guidance for teachers on the development of students' environmental attitudes. Using unstructured observation, and informant-style interviews with the teachers and their sixth form students, the research investigates the similarities and differences between the teachers' beliefs and practices, and considers the educational problems and possibilities with teaching controversial environmental issues. The findings reveal a substantial divergence between the teachers' beliefs and the espoused aims of both the environmental education literature and the 16-19 syllabus. These teachers reject the aim of promoting pro-environmental attitudes in favour of a form of balanced learning. This involves the twin aims of providing access to a diversity of viewpoints, whilst maintaining a stance of non-intervention, by which they hope to encourage students to make independent decisions about appropriate environmental behaviour. A variety of imaginative teaching strategies are utilised in the pursuit of these aims. However, the findings of this study also illustrate the difficulties encountered by these teachers in trying to implement their beliefs, problems which can be explained by the influence of various constraints, such as the syllabus and examinations, the students' behaviour and characteristics, the subject matter being taught, and the teachers' own knowledge, pedagogical skills, and attitudes.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Education & training