Year

2016

Degree Name

Doctor of Education

Department

School of Education

Abstract

Calls have been made from the highest echelons to give children a greater voice in decision-making on global issues relevant to them. Environmental education has provided children with knowledge and skills to take action on behalf of the environment, while also raising awareness of the plight of the environment in their family homes. However, rarely have children been deliberately positioned to be intergenerational environmental change agents in their family homes. Therefore, the aim of this study was to provide a group of children with a tool that could support them to encourage environmental change in their family homes. Critical theory underpinned the makeup and methodology of this research project with particular focus on the concepts of critical pedagogy, transformation, power and hegemony.

The purpose of this qualitative case study was to test the effectiveness of a shared Protocol (Contract) for enabling children to become intergenerational environmental change agents by fostering environmentally responsible behaviour in their family homes. There were 24 participants, including six 14-year-old children, and their family members. A Protocol was designed by the children in a school-based environmental education subject and taken home to their family members so that they could set goals for living in a more environmentally responsible manner. Data was collected using four semi-structured interview phases and researcher field notes. The data was synthesised, summarised and thematically analysed according to the supporting research questions. Data is discussed through a critical theory lens in response to the central research question.

Analysis of the data revealed that the while the Protocol was reasonably effective in enabling the children to be intergenerational environmental change agents, the children had mixed success in negotiating hegemonic familial and social forces such as the dominance of adults in the family domain, the feeling of powerlessness by participants in the face of global environmental problems and the propensity of participants to neglect environmentally responsible behaviour if it threatened their established lifestyles. The findings from this study point to the need for school-based environmental educators to collaborate with students to produce programs that openly expose the issues of power and hegemony in the life worlds of children in order to enhance children’s opportunities to have an active voice in their schools, communities and families.

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