Asia-Pacific Forum on Science Learning and Teaching, Volume 12, Issue 2, Article 5 (Dec., 2011)
Sibel OZSOY, Gokhan OZSOY and Hayriye Gul KURUYER
Turkish pre-service primary school teachers’ environmental attitudes: Effects of gender and grade level

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Conclusion and discussion

Today, it is known that the Earth is the only planet, where mankind can live. From the very beginning of their existence, humans have given the impression of an enemy to  natural environment (Hadisuwarno, 1997: as cited in Quablan, 2005). Paradoxically, they are the key actors to solve the environmental problems. To solve the environmental problems, humans need to develop an understanding about the actions that causes the deterioration of the environment. For an understanding of global environmental problems, it is necessary to develop a consciousness of the environment, because environmental consciousness is a general condition for changing environmental habits (Brunold, 2006).

Attitudes toward the environment begin to evolve at very young ages. While environmental education should be provided to people of all ages with formal and informal education, children are the most important target audience of environmental education. Today’s children are individuals who will experience the environmental problems of future and who will try to solve those problems. With their future vocational positions they will make decisions and so they will have important roles on environmental politics and the applications related to environment. Moreover, they will have a right to say about the usage of natural resources. Because of these, it will be an important investment for the future to brought up children as knowledgeable about environmental issues, conscious of, sensitive to environmental problems and willing to solve those problems even beginning from their school years. Teachers are the major agents for educating students with these characteristics. Than (2001) emphasized that teachers play the pre-eminent role in determining the quality of environmental education in primary schools. Thus, if teachers don’t have positive attitudes toward environmental issues, they won’t be able to educate children having desired characteristics. For this reason, determining pre-service teachers’ attitudes toward the environment appears to be an important subject to be examined.

With this respect, the purpose of this study was to determine primary school pre-service teachers’ attitudes toward environment and how gender and grade level affects their environmental attitudes. The descriptive results of the study revealed that Turkish pre-service primary school teachers have favorable attitudes toward environment. Pre-service teachers have a moderate awareness of environmental problems (M = 35.81, SD = 5.08), have a high attitude toward solutions (M = 51.30, SD = 5.89), have a high awareness of individual responsibility and attitude through changing lifestyles (M = 49.83, SD = 5.65) and a moderate awareness of national environmental problems (M = 18.64, SD = 2.57). These results are not consistent with the previous research studies (Tuncer, Sungur, Tekkaya & Ertepinar, 2007). In their study, authors reported that pre-service teachers’ environmental attitudes cannot be evaluated as positive. Moreover, they seem to be undecided about the statement representing their attitudes toward solutions and their individual responsibilities.The inferential statistics showed that there is a significant mean difference between female and male pre-service teachers. In the literature, gender difference in favour of females is reported in many of research studies (Davidson & Freudenburg, 1996; Gardos & Dodd, 1995; Huang & Yore, 2004; Tikka, Kuitunen & Tynys, 2000). Similar results are also reported in studies conducted with Turkish samples (Erol & Gezer, 2006; Sama, 2003; Tuncer et al., 2005; Tuncer, et al., 2007; Tuncer et al., 2009; Yilmaz, Boone & Andersen, 2004). The gender differences found may be because of traditional gender roles. Regarding the gender roles, females are usually responsible for nurturing their family and protecting their children (Blocker & Eckberg, 1997; Gilligan, 1982) and males are responsible for providing the economic wealth of their family.  Based on these gender roles, males tend to master nature and derive benefits from natural resources whereas females are concerned about environmental issues and take a more emotional attitude toward nature (Kelert & Berry, 1987; Caro, Pelkey & Grigione, 1994). Based on these roles, females are more likely to show positive attitudes toward environmental issues. As Tikka et. al. states that (2000) “the concern felt by women for nature and environment could be seen as a way of taking care of their offspring, because a clean and safe environment was a precondition for welfare and survival.” (p.18).

The results also revealed that primary school pre-service teachers attending to different grades of teacher education programme do not differ from each other with respect to their environmental attitudes. Age, in this case grade level, is reported as one of the important variables affecting environmental attitudes (Malkus & Musser, 1997). In Turkish education system, pre-service teachers take an environmental education course in the second year of undergraduate education. Considering this situation, it was expected first grade students’ will have the lowest environmental attitude scores and the fourth grade students’ will have the highest ones. Although pre-service teachers have high environmental attitude scores, do not finding a significant difference among them is a thought-provoking situation. Based on these results it can be concluded that environmental education course provided in undergraduate education does not affectively change primary school pre-service teachers’ environmental attitudes.Primary school students see their teachers as the embodiment of knowledge. Teachers are usually the role models for children. Thus it is very important for a teacher to have high qualities. To educate environmentally literate students, teachers should be knowledgeable about environmental issues and show positive attitudes toward environment. For this reason, it is very important to improve in-service and pre-service teachers’ attitudes toward environment. To do this, the number of courses focusing on environmental education should be increased and gender difference should be eliminated through  education. Since, theoretical courses may not be enough to improve their attitudes toward environment, more practical environmental education courses should be provided for pre-service teachers in their undergraduate education. These courses can provide real-life situations that they can be involved easily and thus may be more effective than the theoretical ones. Moreover, interdisciplinary courses addressing the relationship between the science-technology-environment and society approach can challenge pre-service primary school teachers to promote effective environmental education within their future professional work lives. Intensive energy should be spent to improve pre-service teachers’ environmental attitudes because; teachers with positive environmental attitudes are the guarantee of having environmentally aware citizens showing environmentally responsible behaviours.


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