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IS THIS A MECHANIC OR AN ORGANIC WORLD? A CASE STUDY ON HOW 9TH GRADE STUDENTS SEE THE WORLD O.

Figueiredo1 Escola Secundria de Campo Maior M. Csar1 Universidade de Lisboa, Centro de Investigao em Educao da Faculdade de Cincias Introduction At the turn of this new century, humankind faces challenges on a global scale that can compromise the survival of the entire species. Wars in the Middle East, starvation in many underdeveloped countries, feeble investment in the development of non-polluting technologies, among other problems, are all symptoms of the same malady our attitude towards our planet: not looking at her as a living organism that must be respected and cared for, but as a mere resource to be brutally explored and mistreated, apparently without causing real damage. A paradigm shift is absolutely essential and can only be achieved by throwing out our anthropocentric view of the world, shifting to a biocentric paradigm inspired by a deep ecological view of the world. To achieve the desired shift, humankind has to understand that the world is not mechanical but organic, and with limited resources. We believe that school has a major role in this paradigm shift. Students attitudes towards the global ecosystem must chang. September 2002 began the implementation of a curriculum reform in Portuguese compulsory schooling which comprises nine grades (from ages 6 to 15, if students never fail), divided in three cycles of four, two and three years. One of the four themes of the national curriculum of Physical and Natural Sciences is called Sustainability on Earth. Some of the sustainability-related competences that this document claims to be important to develop in students are: Acknowledging humankinds needs of appropriation of the resources that exist on earth in order to transform and use them; Acknowledging the role of Science and Technology in the transformation and utilization of the existing resources; Acknowledging that human intervention on Earth affects individuals, society and the environment and raises questions of a social and ethical nature; Understanding the consequences that the utilization of the existing resources has for individuals, for society and for the environment; Understanding the importance of scientific and technological knowledge in the explanation and resolution of situations that contribute to the sustainability of life on Earth (CNEB, 2001, p. 140). Mode of Inquiry The main aim of this exploratory study is to understand students endorsement of the New Ecological Paradigm using Dunlap, van Liere, Mertig, and Jones (2000) questionnaire. The participants are 9th grade students (n=107) from a school in Northern Lisbon. Ages vary between 14 and 16. The criterion for this choice is that according to the reform implemented in compulsory education, students attended two disciplines

We thank Sofia Coelho who helped us improving the English version.

during the 8th grade - Natural Sciences and Physical and Chemical Sciences - with a common general theme, Sustainability on Earth, whose main goal is to develop the competences listed above. This case study is part of a wider project aiming to understand the dialectic relations between Science and teachers conceptions of Sustainable Development, and how Science and Sustainability must be approached in the classroom. Concerning the nature of the study we decided to use an interpretative approach, inspired in ethnographic methods. Besides the questionnaires answered by the students whose results are presented in this paper, we also used audio-recorded teachers interviews as data collection instruments, and participant observation of these classes. The questionnaire used was the 2nd version of a Likert scale published by Dunlap and collaborators (2000), and adapted to the Portuguese population by Lima and Guerra (2004). This scale has four levels (1 to 4) of agreement/disagreement, measuring the participants endorsement regarding two ways of seeing the world and humankinds role: the Dominant Social Paradigm (DSP), related to a modern, anthropocentric and mechanical view of the world, that conceives humankind as a superior species with the right to rule and use the planet; and a biocentric and organic paradigm, called New Ecological Paradigm (NEP), which conceives humankind as just one species among others living on this planet. Students answered this questionnaire individually at the beginning of the school year, although in a collective administration procedure, carried out by the researcher, during a class. Their answers were submitted to descriptive statistical treatment using EXCEL. The NEP scale consists of 15 questions grouped in five items of three questions, each related to different aspects of Sustainable Development. Item number 1 is called Limits to growth and concerns the perceptions students have of the limited capacity of Earth to sustain the growing human population. Item number 2 is Antianthropocentrism measuring students perceptions of the role that humankind is playing on Earth - if it is seen as a special species that has the right to rule the world or just as any other species that must show respect towards the natural environment, as well as towards other species. Item number 3 is known as Balance of nature and concerns students perceptions of the fragile natural equilibrium in our planet. Item number 4, called Exemptionalism, is about the way students perceive humankind: as a species just like any other that is vulnerable to the laws of nature; or as a species that has special powers (e.g., reasoning), and can easily escape from natural constrictions. The last item, number 5, Ecocrisis, measures students opinions about a possible global ecological crisis that humankind may have to face in the near future. The answers were re-codified so that 1 corresponds to a strong NEP endorsement and 4 to a strong DSP endorsement. The NEP index was calculated for each category as well as globally. In the first case, it was calculated by averaging the three questions corresponding to each category and in the second case by averaging all fifteen questions. For example, in a questionnaire where category 1, that includes the questions: 1 We are approaching the limit of the number of people Earth can support; 6 Earth has plenty of natural resources if we just learn how to develop them and 11 Earth is like a spaceship with very limited room and resources, had the answers 2, 1 and 3, respectively, the NEP index is calculated in the following way: index=[2+(41)+3]/3=2.(6), which shows a moderate DSP endorsement in this category. Notice that the answer to question number 6 was re-codified in order to make 1 correspond to a strong NEP endorsement and 4 to a strong DSP endorsement.

Findings Table 1 shows the NEP/DSP index calculated as explained above. Table 1 Response percentages on the questionnaires five items NEP NEP DSP DSP NEP/DSP index strong moderate moderate strong 1.9 33.0 59.4 5.7 1 Limits to growth 34.9 65.1 29.2 67.0 3.8 0 2 Antianthropocentrism 96.2 3.8 38.7 55.6 5.7 0 3 Balance of nature 94.3 5.7 4.7 70.7 23.6 0.9 4 Exemptionalism 75.4 24.5 16.8 76.6 6.6 0 5 Ecocrisis 93.4 6.6 2.8 94.4 2.8 --Global 97.2 2.8 Although practically all the students (97.2%) are situated in the NEP, there are a small number of strong NEP positions. Item Limits to growth is the one with more students endorsing DSP (64.5%) followed, though with a significant difference, by Exemptionalism with 24.5% of students endorsing DSP. This empirical evidence is problematic as these two items are important aspects of Sustainable Development as mentioned in the Theoretical Background. Items with highest percentages of students showing they strongly endorse the NEP are numbers 2 and 4 (29.2% and 38.7%, respectively). The lowest is Exemptionalism with 4.7%. Implications The results raise certain issues. It is clear that the items more associated to the NEP endorsement are those often referred to by the media. Although the demographic explosion is sometimes focussed on, usually it is not as explored as the other issues (the extinction of species, the fragile equilibrium of ecosystems, or the ecological crisis related to global warming problems). The fragility of natural ecosystems is a common theme and the item Balance of nature has the highest percentage of strong NEP endorsements. As for Exemptionalism this point concerns the traditional conception of Science as a problem solver, capable of helping humankind in almost every need. This finding is related to the deformed conceptions of Science so often also transmitted by teachers. Thus, these findings led us to ask: To what extent are school contributions to the students perspectives on Sustainable Development ethically and scientifically relevant? Are they less journalistic than those exposed in the media? Although the ecological aspects of Sustainable Development seem to be related to the organic paradigm there is a lot of work to be done regarding its social and epistemological aspects. References
Dunlap, E., Van Liere, K., Mertig, A., & Jones, R. (2000), Measuring endorsement of an ecological worldview: A revised NEP scale. Journal of Social Issues, 56(3), 425-442.

Lima, A. V., & Guerra, J. (2004), Degradao ambiental, representaes e novos valores ecolgicos. In J. F. Almeida (Ed.), Os portugueses e o ambiente (pp. 7-64). Lisboa: Celta. Ministrio da Educao (2001). Currculo nacional do ensino bsico. Lisboa: Departamento do Ensino Bsico.