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Student-teachers’ conceptualisations of environment and human-nature relationships Robertson, Alistair S


This study presents arguments for a constructivist perspective and qualitative methodologies for environmental education research. Its purpose was to explore student teachers' pre-instructional perspectives on the environment and environmental education, as well as on the relationship between humans and the natural world. Interviews were conducted with students in a South African teacher education program with mandatory environmental education sessions. Three data sets consisting of one-on-one interviews were collected. The first set comprised single interviews with ten students in 1992 and the second set involved multiple interviews with nine students and single interviews with three other students in 1993. The third data set comprised single interviews conducted by an independent researcher to elicit students' experiences of the data collection process. Students' conceptualisations of the environment, including associated beliefs on environmental education, are described within five categories: social, political, biophysical, integrated systems, and part of one's self. Thirteen conceptualisations of human-nature relationships are described, beginning with one portraying the shared origin of humans and nature, then four portraying human-nature connections. The remaining eight are organised on the basis of value which students attributed to the natural world: four conceptualisations relating to intrinsic value, one to inherent value, and three to instrumental value. Students' experiences of the environmental education sessions are also described, drawing attention to themes. Two conclusions are drawn from the analyses. First, students' pre-instructional beliefs exhibit important elements of conceptions of environment and environmental issues described in the literature. Similarly, their conceptualisations of human-nature relationships traverse a range of eco-philosophical perspectives and include elements of most of the categories developed in this literature. These conclusions are used to argue for the place of eco-philosophical literature within environmental teacher education and for a pedagogical approach which encourages students to explicate and critique their personal beliefs.

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