de la formation environne-
Depuis les années 70, plusieurs expériences de
formation environnementale ont vu le jour dans les écoles.
mentale : comment la formation environne-
mentale influence l’éthique personnelle des étudiants
Plusieurs universités offrent divers programmes
avec une composante environnementale.
Il serait intéressant de connaître dans quelle mesure ces
programmes ont affecté les valeurs environnementales des étudiants.
Ma curiosité envers cette question m’a amené
à centrer ma thèse de maîtrise sur l’enjeu suivant :
dans quelle mesure les valeurs environnementales des étudiants se
sont-elles développées ou modifiées suite aux cours préliminaires
offerts les écoles secondaires traditionnelles?
Mon étude a démontré qu’effectivement ces
cours affectaient les valeurs environnementales des étudiants qui les
avaient suivis. Il est
important que notre société adopte des valeurs éco-centristes si nous
voulons cheminer sur la voie des comportements
harmonieux avec l’environnement.
How environmental education
personal environmental ethics
Emily E. McMillan, BSc, MES
Graduate of Dalhousie University,
School for Resource and Environmental Studies
the 1970's, initiatives to include environmental education in schools
have been increasing. Many universities now have some kind of program
with an environmental component. The question is whether these
programs are having a beneficial impact on the environmental values of
students. My curiosity about this led me to focus my Masters thesis
research on whether or not students' environmental values changed or
developed after taking a traditional post-secondary introductory
environmental studies class.
(Photo: School for Resource
and Environmental Studies)
My research focused on the class Introduction to Environmental
Studies, offered by the Science Department of Dalhousie University.
The class is based on twice-weekly lectures and bi-weekly tutorials.
Taught since 1995, the class encompasses a broad and interdisciplinary
range of topics, from biology to economics to law. Students are in a
variety of programs, including science, arts, management, health
professions and computer science. The research examined changes in
depth by interviewing a small group of students and more broadly by
using questionnaires with a larger portion of the class. In-class
observations were also conducted, to provide contextual information.
This study found that Dalhousie's Introductory Environmental
Studies class, a traditional post-secondary introductory class,
imparted environmental values to the students enrolled. Through
questionnaires, interviews, and observations it was determined that
this was an effective environmental studies class, which helped the
students' environmental values develop over the course of the year.
Students, through their questionnaire and interview responses, were
seen to move toward a more earth focused and less human centered
outlook, and to have an increased degree of sophistication regarding
knowledge of environmental issues, representing a move toward more
developed environmental values. Results showed that many of the
interview respondents already had a fairly high level of environmental
values, showing a probable bias in the sample. However, results also
showed that this class served to deepen the values of many of the
The interviews revealed how students changed their
conceptualizations over the time they were in the class. They were
seen to become more environmentally aware and showed an increase in
sophistication regarding environmental issues. The participants'
deepening awareness could be seen in one question in particular:
"What do you see as the biggest environmental problems in society
today?" In the first set of interviews, at the beginning of the
class, the majority of the answers surrounded topics such as air
pollution, water pollution or just general pollution and "stuff
like that." In the third set of interviews, at the end of the
eight month class, this answer deepened such that the answers were
better articulated and more sophisticated. Answers in the third set of
interviews focused on issues such as over-consumption and the misuse
of non-renewable resources, something that was only mentioned by one
respondent in the first interview. There was a greater recognition
that how we obtain resources and what we obtain is important. Also,
population was seen as a big problem in the third set of interviews
while it was not mentioned in the first set of interviews.
(photo: Irving Eco-Centre)
This was a noticeable trend between the first and third interviews.
Some students went from a fairly shallow understanding of certain
issues that might affect them personally to a deeper understanding of
the nature of environmental problems-the interconnectedness and the
fact that almost everything we do affects the environment. Interview
participants attributed the changes noted to taking the class, and
reported some changes in behavior as a result of the class.
This study shows that this type of class is very valuable in the
university setting and is an important way to impart environmental
values to students. It is vital that we build environmental values in
this and coming generations and this type of class has shown to be
effective in doing so. Unfortunately, these courses appeal to those
least in need of it; therefore, the students who are in most need of
its teachings may never take the class. There needs to be more of a
push for students to enroll in these classes; administrations must
continue to provide resources to environmental programs and give
classes such as this greater prominence. As many students recommended,
the administration of the university should consider making this a
mandatory class for all degrees. At the very least, more and better
advertisement of the course is needed, as well as for other classes
that could be taken as follow up. Advertising materials should stress
how this class is relevant to the different degrees. Environmental
education should be an
The goal must be to have students graduate with ecocentric values,
and behave according to these values. We must strive to move toward a
more ecocentric value system in our society on our road toward
environmentally friendly behavior. Effective environmental education
provides great possibilities in helping us achieve this goal.