Ph.D. Dissertation Proposal Defense: Roberta Howard Hunter

Tuesday, July 17, 2018 10:00am - 12:00pm

GSE 347

Dissertation Proposal Defense

Teacher Environmental Literacy: Its Development and Assessment

Roberta is a doctoral student in the Learning, Cognition, Instruction, and Development concentration of the Doctor of Philosophy program. 

Committee: Rebecca Jordan (Chair), Ravit Golan Duncan, Carrie Ferraro, Kathryn Stevenson


Despite progress grounded in the environmental movement of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, we still face local, national, and global environmental issues. Humans have altered the planet to the extent that we have entered a new geologic era characterized by lasting effects on the atmosphere, land, and water – the Anthropocene (Crutzen, 2002; Crutzen, 2006; Steffen, Crutzen, & McNeill, 2007). To address continuing and emergent environmental issues, we must prepare future citizens to be environmentally literate (Marcinkowski, 1990; Roth, 1968; Roth, 1992; Stables, 1998; UNESCO, 1977). Environmental literacy (EL) includes knowledge about the environment, social systems, and their intersection, pro-environmental dispositions, and environmentally responsible behavior, as well as practices. These practices include identifying and investigating issues, and generating and evaluating possible solutions for that context. I describe here a new view of EL, the contextual view, that emphasizes these practices as key to enacting EL in the myriad complex contexts which we encounter. It is through these practices that individuals can move to more critical levels of EL, which fully engage with the social-ecological nature of environmental issues (Stables, 1992).

Although these practices are often neglected in the assessment of EL, there is evidence that students are not being fully prepared for them and perform poorly (Erdogan & Ok, 2011; McBeth, Hungerford, Marcinkowski, Volk, & Meyers, 2008; Negev, Sagy, Garb, Salzberg, & Tal, 2008; Shin, et al., 2005; Stevenson, Peterson, Bondell, Mertig, Moore, 2013). I argue that because of this, we must look at the EL of teachers, as they are a major provider of environmental education, and regard EL as part of a pedagogical content knowledge (Shulman, 1986).

This research investigates teacher EL in three parts. First, through a mapping review of the existing literature on EL with pre- and in-service teachers. Secondly, I study the assessment of EL through the development and testing of the Teacher Environmental Literacy Assessment (TELA) that includes the EL practices. Lastly, using a mixed-methods case study design, I investigate the development of teacher EL using a problem-based learning (Barrows, 1986; Hmelo-Silver, 2004; Torp & Sage, 2002) professional development program.


Who to contact:

Ericka Diaz