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Understanding Student Conceptions of Sustainability. Nicola Walshe Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge.

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understanding student conceptions of sustainability
Understanding Student Conceptions of Sustainability

Nicola Walshe

Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge

slide2

‘The goal of sustainable development is to enable all people throughout the world to satisfy their basic needs and enjoy a better quality of life, without compromising the quality of life of future generations’

(DfES, 2006)

‘geography is a focus within the curriculum for understanding and resolving issues about the environment and sustainable development’

(DfEE/QCA, 1999)

research design
Research Design
  • One class of 27 Year 8 students (case study)
  • Methods:
    • Concept mapping (context: sustainable tourism)
    • Interviews (semi-structured interviews with four pupils: Edward, Catherine, James and Lizzi)
    • Written definitions
    • Further interviews
  • Data Analysis

- open and a priori coding of content of concept maps and interviews

- analysis of pattern of conceptual development of concept maps (after Kinchin et al., 2000)

slide7

Categories capturing features of sustainable tourism:

  • Environmental
  • Social
  • Economic

Economic = 77

Social = 54

Environmental = 113

slide9

Patterns of Content in Concept Maps

4

Economically-focused

sustainability

(Cheyenne)

Complex sustainability

(Lizzi)

Socially-focused sustainability (Kerry)

Environmentally-focused

sustainability

(George)

1

1

1

4

2

5

1

1

1

2

1

6

1

4

2

1

2

2

5

slide10

Environmentally-focused

sustainability

(George)

George

(environmentally-focused)

slide12

Complex sustainability

(Lizzi)

Lizzi

(complex)

interview analysis 1 defining sustainable development
Interview Analysis (1)Defining Sustainable Development
  • ‘I think that it means that something can last’ (Catherine)
  • ‘where something that can stay the same for a long time and never, like, deteriorate’ (James)
  • ‘I think it means something that can last quite a long time without damaging people’s lifestyle, culture, or the environment around them’ (Lizzi)
  • ‘you teach someone something, and then, what happens to the reason why you taught them, it happens again, then they can build a house again, because you taught them already’ (Edward).
interview analysis 2
Interview Analysis (2)
  • Students elaborate significantly on concepts they are describing when in an interview situation, whereas their ideas are often poorly expressed and lacking detail when included in a concept map.
  • For example: Edward

CONCEPT MAP

INTERVIEW

‘more cars more light so people can’t sleep’

‘it would be very crowded, and it would have a .... it would have an exceeded carrying capacity. So the people would be everywhere, there’d be no space anywhere. The cars and the local amenities would be just so packed in and overdone and over rushed and things.’

interview analysis 3
Interview Analysis (3)
  • In the interviews, all four students discussed the ‘future’ (timescale); this is despite the fact that this concept was rarely mentioned in concept diagrams.
  • For example: Lizzi
  • Why?

‘Sustainable tourism is something that, well, that can last for a long time ... you’d also have maybe a small town that starts off thinking it’s going to start sustainable, then after a couple of years they realise that they can make more money, so they build higher skyscrapers, more hotels, and they just ruin the countryside around it, and take away all the culture.’

where is time
Where is TIME?
  • ‘I think [lasting a long time] would maybe fit under mostly all of [the other categories] because they’re all about everything lasting longer in each category’ (Catherine)
  • ‘[I would] most probably put it in economics in the way that I’d say that the money is spent on things that will last for a long time. And pollution I’d put about the rubbish and then social I’d put in about the carrying capacity of a place’ (Edward)
implications for practice

Implications for Practice

Content: The three concepts of

environmental, social and economic

sustainability

Purpose: What is the relevance of sustainability?

“I think it’s good to be taught in the way that it will help you understand from situations, but maybe it needs to be taught in a kind of a different way, if it’s more to teach you about how to use it like later on in life, and stuff …… [We need] like steps [we] could try and use.”

James

  • Methodological implications: Researching children’s understandings