Fire / Feu


L’efficacité de la formation environne-
mentale : 
comment la formation environne-
mentale influence l’éthique personnelle des étudiants

Depuis les années 70, plusieurs expériences de formation environnementale ont vu le jour dans les écoles.

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.

The Effectiveness of
Environmental Education:
How environmental education influences students' personal environmental ethics

Emily E. McMillan, BSc, MES
Graduate of Dalhousie University,
School for Resource and Environmental Studies
February 2003

ince 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 students.

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.