Tertiary level environmental education: The University of Notre Dame Australia experience
Morrison-Saunders, A. (1998) Tertiary level environmental education: The University of Notre Dame Australia experience. In: Understanding Your Environment conference, 1 - 3 May, Murdoch University, Western Australia.
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The reality of environmental education in Australian universities has not always lived up to the expectations of the theoretical literature. Ideally environmental education should develop environmentally responsible citizens who have: (i) an awareness and sensitivity to the environment; (ii) a sound knowledge about environmental issues, problems and solutions; (iii) feelings of concern for the environment; (iv) skills for solving environmental problems; (v) the ability to critically evaluate environmental issues; and (vi) the motivation to take action to implement environmental solutions. This requires education about, in and for the environment. Through changing people’s behaviour, environmental education also has an important role in achieving sustainability. Despite a recent explosion in tertiary level environmental education in Australia, there is little evidence that the ideals of environmental education are being upheld in many universities. This paper presents the experience of the University of Notre Dame Australia with environmental education within the Bachelor of Arts (Environmental Studies) degree. Here a multi-disciplinary approach has been adopted which fosters student empowerment and active participation in the resolution of environmental problems. Education about the environment incorporates a broad range of specific subject areas and contemporary environmental issues. Experiential learning in the environment is promoted through field trips, interaction with practicing environmental professionals and work-force internship programmes. Education for the environment is undertaken through innovative ‘real-life’ assignments. The concept of education for sustainability underlies the entire environmental studies programme and is explicitly promoted through values education and the reinforcement of appropriate behaviour. A major future challenge concerns balancing the increasing demands for more specialised and vocationally based education coming from employers and students alike with the holistic and socially critical aspects of ideal environmental education.
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