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Students' values, attitudes and behaviours towards environmental issues

Kuo, Lih-Yuh Chiou (1994) Students' values, attitudes and behaviours towards environmental issues. Masters by Research thesis, Murdoch University.

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This study investigated primary, secondary and tertiary students' attitudes towards environmental issues, their involvement in environmental activities, and the environmental values which underlie their concerns about caring for the environment It explored developmental changes in environmental attitudes, behavioural involvement and values as students pass through childhood and adolescence into early adulthood. The study also examined relationships among values, attitudes and behavioural actions, and aimed to determine whether values are better predictors of behavioural actions than are attitudes in the area of environmental conservation.
A Rasch psychometric model of modem test theory for Likert-style questionnaires was applied to examine and improve the internal consistency and validity of three measuring scales, namely, an environmental attitude scale (EAS), an environmental behaviour scale (EBS) and an environmental value scale (EVS), all three of which were constructed for this investigation.

After a preliminary and a pilot study using cross-sectional designs, final results from three groups of subjects totalling 423 students (148 primary school year 7 students, 151 high school year 10 students and 124 university first year students) who completed the 30-item EAS, the 15-item EBS and the 10-item EVS, showed that the items from the EAS and the EBS conformed satisfactorily with the Rasch model, and although the EVS was satisfactory for the purpose of the thesis, it requires further refinement.

This study did not provide evidence to support the theoretical argument that values, rather than attitudes, are better predictors of environmental behaviour; however, it demonstrated that values remained consistent across six different environmental issues and across the three age groups, which provides some support for Rokeach's postulation that values transcend situations and underlie people's attitudes and behaviour towards specific objects and situations.

Results from formal statistical analyses indicated that: (a) there was a developmental shift towards more positive environmental attitudes from primary school aged students through high school students to university students; however, further analysis revealed that the positive shift towards pro-environmental attitudes with increasing education levels was evident among female subjects only; (b) with respect to environmental behavioural involvement, primary school students participated more actively in environmental activities than high school and university students; this reversed trend was evident particularly with primary school male students; (c) responses to the EVS remained constant across the three age levels; (d) female students in all three age groups were significantly more pro-environment than male students on all three scales; (e) more primary school students (particularly male students) chose economic benefit as their main reason for participation in pro-environmental activities than did the other two groups of subjects; (f) primary school students thought they obtained their information about the environment mainly from school education while high school and university students received their information mainly from the mass media.

Implications arising from this study suggest that: (a) a longitudinal panel study following a cohort of students from pre-adolescence through adolescence or even through early adulthood should be carried out in order to better understand any changing relationships among environmental attitudes, behaviours and values; (b) subjects from different socio-economic backgrounds and geographical areas should be examined to establish the generalizability of the findings from this study; (c) further exploration of the possible contribution of an environmental values education to changes in attitudes and behaviours with respect to the environment is required; (d) an investigation into the use of media as a means of developing positive environmental attitudes and values should be carried out; and (e) financial incentives seem to play a significant role in the decision of young people to get involved in environmental activities and this may need to be taken into account if a context to facilitate active participation is desired.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters by Research)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Education
Notes: Note to the author: If you would like to make your thesis openly available on Murdoch University Library's Research Repository, please contact: Thank you.
Supervisor(s): Styles, Irene, Andrich, David and McComb, Arthur
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