Environmental education — Key issues of the future role of the educator

Environmental education — Key issues of the future role of the educator

HABITATINTL: Vol. 4, No. I/2. PP. 199-205 F’ngamon Press Ltd. 1979. Printed in Great Britain Environmental Education - Key Issues of the Future Role ...

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HABITATINTL: Vol. 4, No. I/2. PP. 199-205 F’ngamon Press Ltd. 1979. Printed in Great Britain

Environmental Education - Key Issues of the Future Role of the Educator ELIZABETH PERROTT Director, International Microteaching Research Unit, Lancaster University, UK The place of environmental studies in the school and the factors which have led to an increased interest in these studies are considered. The chief obstacles to the progress of these studies in the secondary schools are outlined and the importance of individual or independent studies is discussed. In the present paper ‘new methods for use in the professional training of teachers are described with particular reference to training methods which help theteacher with the organisation of individual work by a school class. Reference to the research and development studies which have been carried out on these training methods is made.

INTRODUCTION The last ten years have seen an increasing interest in the place of environmental in the schools. Factors in this increasing interest have been:


1. The reformation of science curricula in the secondary schools. 2. The production of suitable texts and other materials. 3. The creation of a working partnership between the schools and information services outside the schools, such as the Field Studies Council, local museums, the Naturalists’ Trusts, the Youth Hostels Association, broadcasting in both sound and vision, the Nature Conservancy and the Forestry Commission. 4. The development of areas which give facilities for environmental studies by schools and colleges. But, one of the most outstanding changes of recent years has been the swift spread of public awareness about threats to the natural environment in which we live. There is little doubt that expansion of information services outside the schools, such as those provided by the media, the museums, the Nature Conservancy, the Naturalists’ Trusts, together with the increased provision of facilities in the form of National Parks and other reserves have played a part in this increased awareness. ENVIRONMENTAL


As teachers are also members of the public, this increased awareness has also made its impact on the schools, which can be seen in the type of studies undertaken. Environmental studies are characterised by their inter-disciplinary nature, and their suitability for the involvement of pupils in individual studies. Work of this kind is increasingly a feature of 199

Elizabeth Perroll


the primary schools, where flexible arrangements of the school day are possible. There is not, however, as much evidence of an increased interest in these studies in the secondary schools. It appears that one of the chief obstacles to progress at the secondary stage is the organisation of the school day into periods of 40-50 min. which are handled by subject specialists. In the 1960s as a result of the surveys carried out for the Nature Conservancy’s Study Group on Education and Field Biology (l), I found that this rigid form of organisation in secondary schools was one of the chief factors named by teachers as affecting the amount and type of environmental study being carried out in the schools. Field investigations, undertaken on an individual or small-group basis, requiring several visits and a problem-solving approach were especially affected by the division of the school day into 30-40 min periods. In such a situation, interference with the timetable leads to difficulties, which are bound to arise when teaching is arranged on a specialist basis. Yet subsequent research studies which followed the Study Group surveys, showed that given a 2-3 hour period, such individual investigations, when organised by a teacher for a whole class, can play an important role in stimulating the recall of factual in providing training in the application of knowledge and in the information, development of problem-solving techniques which are an essential part of scientific investiations, Perrott (2).




Another clear demonstration of the effectiveness of individual studies of the environment was also given recently by the results of the water pollution survey made by British children (3). This survey was organised by the Advisory Centre for Education at Cambridge and the Sunday Times newspaper. An article on water pollution appeared in the colour supplement of the paper, together with the information thata “kit” to study the subject could be obtained, on the payment of 75p, by writing to the Advisory Centre at Cambridge. Some 10,000 “Clean Water Kits” were distributed almost immediately. In each case participants were asked to send their results by a closing date, about 2 months after the first issue, so that they would be included in the first reports. Some 8000 children used the kit to estimate water pollution in rivers and streams in Britain. The work was done during the week l-7 without official supervision. The illustrated text and illustrations of seven “indicator” below 10 years, read it avidly and appeared

August 1971, during the school holidays and broad-sheet provided some 7000 words of the species of invertebrates. Children, even those to understand its contents.

Figure 1 shows the age distribution of the participants in this water pollution survey. Most were between 10 and I3 years but a substantial number were younger. The data, collected by the participants, as analysed by counties and in some cases compared with data obtained by the river authorities. There were no major discrepancies between the results obtained by the children and detailed maps prepared by the experts. Of course the

Environmenful Education-Key

Issues of the Future Role of the Educator



Fig. 1. Age of participants in wuterpollution survey. (4fter Mellunby (3).)

gross data collected the surveys allowed of pollution. Also indicating how they

did not allow the various types the children to make meaningful in some cases children isolated can be encouraged to play a part



of pollution to be distinguished, but biological observations on the effects serious local sources of pollution, in monitoring the environment.



However, with the implementation of comprehensive schooling, some reduction in the rigidity of timetabling in secondary schools is to be found, especially in the first two years, which is an encouraging sign for the increase of environmental studies. But the organisation of individual studies by pupils at school makes considerable demands upon the teacher. The emphasis is on the teacher as planner and organiser of studies undertaken by individuals or small groups rather than on the traditional role of a teacher of the class as a whole.




It is in this changing role of the teacher that the educator has an important part to play, i.e. by the development of new methods of professional training to help teachers, both pre-service and in-service, implement different methods of class organisation. At present my research group is engaged in a research and development study, commissioned by the Department of Education and Science, on the teaching skills involved. For the purpose of this study we have defined independent studies as follows: 1. Pupils work alone or in small groups, which accommodates individual differences among learners, Bloom (4). 2. Pupils are encouraged to choose their own topic of study and are involved in the decision-making concerning their work, Walberg and Thomas (S), Plowden et al. (6). 3. The individual pupil is free from constant supervision by the teacher. In such a situation self-discipline and self-evaluation are necessary. Carefully organised work




of this kind has been shown by Lovitt and Curtis (7) to promote a positive and productive attitude. 4. Pupils can interact with each other when they need to, which tends to reduce tension and anxiety, Ginott (8). 5. It has been shown that when children work independently they conduct experiments, read books, watch films, talk to specialists, make models, paint pictures, collect materials from around the school and outside the school, etc. This wide range of activities and resources is an important characteristic of independent work, Greig and Brown (9), Brown and Precious (10). It has been found that telling teachers about teaching skills is not sufficient. Perrott et al. (11). Instead there must be opportunities for the study of these skills to be focused upon by the observation of models, followed by practice of specific skills which allows for instant and full feed-back. Means of evaluating the teacher’s own use of these skills must also be provided. A handbook is provided for preliminary study of the skills involved, followed by the observation of videotaped models which allow for practice in identifying the skills. Practice in using these skills with one or a small group of pupils follows observation, immediate feedback being given by means of closed-circuit television. Forms for the objective assessment of the videotaped feedback are given in the handbook and, in the light of this feedback, practice is repeated in order to refine the use of the skills. This technique is known as microteaching. In order to assist a teacher in the task of co-ordinating independent studies with a fullsize class, a self-instructional microteaching course which involves the teacher in 15 hours of training, has been devised. In it the training focuses on each of the skills shown in Table 1.

Table I. Planning independent studies 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7.

Assessing pupil’s levels of independence in planning. Defining what is to be studied or agreeing learning objectives. Identifying resources for study. Specifying learning steps. Discussing how learning will be demonstrated. Establishing checkpoints and settling deadlines. Arranging a post-project activity.

Fig. 2. Instructional


Environmenlai Educarion-h’ey Issues of theFurure Role of [he Educaror


By focusing on the skills necessary in the planning of independent work with pupils, and by giving the teacher the opportunity to practise them in a microteaching situation, the course helps the teacher to develop those skills which are essential for the organisation of independent work in the school. In a class of thirty pupils there is bound to be a wide range of ability and interests. Whilst independent study caters for these differences, it often fails to run smoothly because of the different demands made upon the teachers. While some pupils will respond well to working independently, others will need closer supervision and will constantly demand help, advice, reassurance or encouragement. If the majority of pupils make such claims, the teacher is put under great strain, as it becomes difficult to answer adequately such a variety of needs. To avoid this sort of situation, it will be helpful if a pupil’s ability to carry out the planning for the particular piece of work is assessed before he actually plans any independent study in detail. By doing this, the teacher will discover how much help each pupil is likely to need. He will also find out which areas of the chosen independent study the pupil is able to plan competently and in which areas he will require guidance. Training is given in assessing the pupil’s ability in each stage of planning, which will enable the teacher to establish the amount of help individual pupils will need. The teacher and the pupil meet twice before the pupil starts work. The first meeting is a very short assessment session, when the teacher assesses the pupil’s levels of independence. This assessment allows the teacher to decide how much preparation he needs to make for the planning session with the pupil. The planning session takes place a day or two later, when both the teacher and the pupil have had an opportunity to think further about the work. On this occasion the six stages of the plan are discussed, each writing down the decisions on a work plan. The stages are: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6.

Stating what is to be learned. Describing how learning will be demonstrated. Identifying available resources. Specifying learning steps and establishing check-points. Setting deadlines. Arranging a post-project activity.

The rationale behind the stages of the work plan is: 1. The pupil should have a clear idea of exactly what he will be doing from start to finish. 2. The pupil will be involved in collecting information from as wide a variety of sources as possible. 3. The pupil will engage in as wide a variety of activities as possible. 4. During the progress of his work the pupil will consult the teacher only when necessary. 5. Both the teacher and pupil will know if the work is progressing satisfactorily. The course is designed to give the teacher the opportunity to practise the planning of independent studies in a simplified situation, the technique used for this being “micro-


EIizabeih Perroit

teaching”. The situation is simplified because the teacher plans with one or two pupils in the microteaching studio rather than in the classroom. Thus, the teacher can concentrate on planning the work without interruption from other pupils. Also, the teacher will only concentrate on two or three of the stages of planning at any one session. By development of these skills the teacher is enabled to organise individualised studies with a whole class, a task which cannot be carried out effectively without careful preparation and planning. As pupils will tend to complete individual studies at different times, the arrangement of a post-project activity is an important management tool, by which the teacher ensures that each pupil is engaged in useful work until he is free to either bring the group together for discussion of the work of the class as a whole or to hold individual discussions. RESEARCH


Evaluation carried out during the research and development of a similar self-instructional course for teachers on “Effective Questioning” completed in 1975 have shown that: 1. This self-instructional microteaching programme is effective in improving teachers’ questioning skills and that improvement in their use is transferred to the full-size class, Perrott et al. (11). 2. Experienced in-service teachers are interested to take part in additional self instructional microteaching programmes, which provide training in other skills. 3. They recommend such courses to their colleagues, Perrott et al. (12). Our pilot tests on “Planning Independent Studies” have shown these techniques not only to be effective in improving teacher’s organisational skills but also effective in improving the results achieved by pupils engaged in independent studies, measured in terms of pupil participation and achievement. In this connection it is also worth noting a recent research study reported by Gage and his associates (13) at Stanford University, which showed that pupils’ positive attitudes and interest in ecology was considerably reduced after a series of traditional type lessons involving recitation by the teacher, followed by class discussion. CONCLUSION The empirical studies to which I have already referred (2) showed that environmental studies can be carried out in the schools; that the use of individualised methods does not require a greater allocation of time than is given to class teaching; and that it is possible to meet examination requirements by using these methods. With the development of new methods of training to assist the teacher in the organisation of this type of work in the school and a re-organisation of the school day in secondary schools, the major obstacles to implementation of environmental studies would be removed. REFERENCES 1. Report of the Study (1963).


on Education

and Field Biology,


Out of Doors. Longmans,


Environmental Education-Key

Issues of the Future Role of the Educator


2. Perrott, E., Research on the teaching of field biology. Paper No. 27, Proceedings of the Countryside in 1970, Conference on Education, University of Keele, 1965. 3. Melianby, K. and Gilbert, 0. L., Pollution Surveys by British Children, Envir. Pofiuf. 6, 159-180 (1974). 4. Bloom, B. S., Learning for Mastery, U.C.L.A. Evaluation Comment, 2, University of California at Los Angeles ( 1968). 5. Walbetg, H. J. and Thomas, S. C., Defining open education. J. Res. Dev. Educ. 8, 1,4-13 (1974). 6. Plowden et al., Children and their Primav Schools. Report of the Central Advisory Council for Education. H.M.S.O. London (1%7). 7. Levitt, T. C. and Curtis, K. A., Academic response rates as a function of teacher and self-imposed contingencies. J. Appl. Behav. Anal. 2, 1,49-53 (1962). 8. Ginott, H. G., TeucherandChild. Macmillan, New York (1972). 9. Greig, T. 0. and Brown, 3. C., Activity Metho& in the MiddIe Years. Longmans, London (1975). 10. Brown, M. and Precious, N., The Integrated Day in the Primary School. Ward Lock Educational, London (1968). il. Perott, E. ef al., Changes in Teaching Behaviour after completing a self-instructional microteaching course. Progrd. Leartz. Educ. Technoi. 12.6 (1975). 12. Perrott, E. ef al., An investigation into teacher’s reactions to a self-instructional microteaching course. Progrd Learn. Educ. Techn. 13.2 (1976). 13. Gage, N. er al., A factorially designed experiment on teacher structuring, soliciting and reacting. Paper delivered at A.E.R.A. Annual Conference, San Francisco (1976).