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Mapping what young students understand and value regarding sustainable development
Umeå University, Faculty of Science and Technology, Department of Science and Mathematics Education. (UmSER)
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of applied educational science. (Värdefrågor, TUV)ORCID iD: 0000-0002-4483-0597
Umeå University, Faculty of Science and Technology, Department of Science and Mathematics Education. (UmSER)ORCID iD: 0000-0002-5269-1451
2013 (English)In: International Electronic Journal of Environmental Education, ISSN 2146-0329, Vol. 3, no 1, 17-35 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This paper presents the results of a study carried out to investigate how 10-12 year old Swedish students understand and value the issue of sustainable development. The responses from openended questions in a questionnaire have been analyzed through a content analysis based on a phenomenographic approach. The results show that there are considerable variations in the level of understandings and the values related to the three aspects of sustainable development. Understanding within as well as between the aspects is noted, with students having the most difficulty in seeing the relationships between all three aspects, i.e. a holistic understanding. Furthermore, students’ understanding and values are often expressed in an integrated way i.e. expressed in the same sentence. The variations, complex understandings, and expressions of understandings and values are discussed in relation to earlier research with a focus on ethical issues and systems thinking.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2013. Vol. 3, no 1, 17-35 p.
Keyword [en]
Education for sustainable development, levels of understanding, values, student perspective, ethical reflections
National Category
Research subject
educational work
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-63809OAI: diva2:583840
Available from: 2013-01-11 Created: 2013-01-08 Last updated: 2015-10-27Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Känsla, förståelse och värdering: elevers meningsskapande i skolaktiviteter om miljö-och hållbarhetsfrågor
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Känsla, förståelse och värdering: elevers meningsskapande i skolaktiviteter om miljö-och hållbarhetsfrågor
2015 (Swedish)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Alternative title[en]
Emotions, understandings, and values : students' meaning-making in school activities regarding environmental and sustainability issues
Abstract [en]

This thesis focuses on young students’ experiences and meaning-making processes in school practices within environmental and sustainability education. Earlier research has shown this to be an area of complexity; besides a transdisciplinary perspective requiring relational thinking, it also involves conflicting interests as well as emotions and values. With a certain interest in emotions being part of learning as a meaning-making process, this thesis aims to investigate the character of experiencing, and the function of aesthetic experience in environmental and sustainability education. Through a mixed-methods approach a comprehensive questionnaire was used in the first study, and a more in-depth case study investigated the most important findings from the questionnaire even further in the second one by using multiple data. 209 students, age 10-12, from six different schools in Sweden answered the questionnaire. One class in grade six participated in the case study during four months, where both in- and out-of-door activities were studied. Both qualitative content analyses, and quantitative statistics were used to analyze the material from the two studies. Furthermore, John Dewey’s theoretical perspectives and neo-Aristotelian philosophers, mainly Martha Nussbaum, guided the interpretations of the empirical results. The main findings show that young students’ experiences in environmental and sustainability education are characterized by relational understandings both within and among ecologic, economic and social aspects, but also that perceived school activities of a value-laden and more cognitive kind correlated. The results further show that aesthetic experiences function as links in the transactional and continuous processes of meaning making. Furthermore, of importance for students’ meaning making and formation of values in environmental and sustainability were also prior experiences, encounters with outdoor environments and artifacts (both natural and digital), social interactions and felt independence. A holistic picture of understanding, emotions and values hence appear as an intertwined unity in students’ written responses, action and talk. A conclusion suggests that contributing to students’ possibilities of making meaning in environmental and sustainability issues requires openness to personal emotions and values as a starting point. Activities allowing for social interaction, independence, and relevant contextual encounters should also be considered in the pedagogical practice of environmental and sustainability education.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Umeå universitet, 2015. 113+ 4 artiklar p.
Doktorsavhandlingar i pedagogiskt arbete, ISSN 1650-8858 ; 61
, Umeå Studies in the Educational Sciences, 5
environmental and sustainability education, experiences, meaning-making, aesthetics, young students, miljö- och hållbarhetsutbildning, erfarande, meningsskapande, yngre elever
National Category
Pedagogical Work
Research subject
educational work; didactics of natural science
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-101785 (URN)978-91-7601-238-3 (ISBN)
Public defence
2015-05-08, Naturvetarhuset, N320, Umeå universitet, Umeå, 13:00 (Swedish)
Available from: 2015-04-17 Created: 2015-04-13 Last updated: 2015-10-27Bibliographically approved

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Manni, AnnikaSporre, KarinOttander, Christina
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