Journal of Geography in Higher Education - Volume 30 Number 2 2006

Concerns, Attitudes, and Abilities of Early-Career Geography Faculty

Michael N. Solem, Association of American Geographers, Washington, DC, USA
Kenneth E. Foote, University of Colorado at Boulder, USA, Department of Geography

ABSTRACT Professional experiences during graduate school through the first few years of an academic appointment shape patterns of work and social behavior that prefigure the long-term success of new faculty members, including prospects for tenure and promotion. We explore these experiences through interviews and surveys with a sample of early-career faculty in postsecondary American geography. Our analysis reveals that teaching is the primary source of anxiety among new professors, many of whom begin their first academic positions with little or no preparation in learning theory, course design, or pedagogy. Many new faculty members struggle to maintain healthy personal and family lives, while adjusting to unfamiliar norms of their new institutions. New professors benefit from support offered by their department chairpersons and from working in collegial environments. Among women, we found a greater sense of self-doubt about their scholarly abilities and futures despite having records comparable in accomplishment to their male peers. Many women cope with this sense of marginalization by forming supportive mentoring relationships with other women faculty on campus and through disciplinary specialty groups. Networking with colleagues on campus and at academic conferences enhances the job performance and satisfaction of all faculty members irrespective of gender. Our findings underscore the importance of examining the social, professional, and disciplinary contexts of higher education to acquire a broader understanding of faculty development. This knowledge can help departments prepare new faculty for successful and satisfying academic careers.

KEYWORDS early-career faculty, geography in higher education, faculty development

Environmental Research and Education in US Geography

Robert S. Bednarz, Texas A&M University, Department of Geography, USA

ABSTRACT This article evaluates geography as an appropriate home for environmental education. First, it argues that many geographers have defined geography as a discipline with a major, if not primary, interest in human–environment interactions. Next, it reviews the recent statements by non-geographer, environmental scholars that, directly or indirectly, argue for strong participation by geographers in environmental science and sustainability studies. After a brief review of the status and the nature of environmental research programs and environmental curricula, the article offers reasons why more environmental education does not take place in geography. The lack of environmental education in the discipline and the conservative nature of the courses taught are attributed to geography's small size and low status and to the controversial nature of environmental issues in the United States. A broad definition of environmental education is used when searching for evidence of its existence or importance, but special attention is focused on courses or programs that incorporate sustainability or other topics that include a human dimension, in contrast with those that are confined to a narrow, natural-science or management conception.

KEYWORDS Environmental education, sustainability, Geography Education Standards, human–environment relations

Finding Space for Education for Sustainable Development in the Enterprise Economy

David Higgitt, National University of Singapore, Department of Geography, Singapore

ABSTRACT The promotion of education for sustainable development (ESD) is likely to be constrained by its compatibility with other missions and objectives of higher education institutions (HEIs). Finding space for ESD in the Enterprise Economy invites consideration of opportunities for increasing the visibility and audibility of environmental messages in HE sectors primarily committed to equipping national economies with skilled graduates. A survey of undergraduates registered for a physical geography module at the National University of Singapore was undertaken for three successive cohorts. Students fundamentally associate sustainability with resource-based definitions and usually construct environmental issues in terms of access to and utilization of the resource base. A limited articulation of environmental problems in neighbouring countries suggests that a geographical perspective (emphasizing space and scale) could be usefully enhanced. However, the role of the geography discipline in best serving ESD is ambiguous given the need to infuse ideas through traditional disciplinary boundaries. Reflections on environmental awareness and attitudes among students in Singapore concur with UNESCO recognition that models for ESD must be locally defined in culturally appropriate ways.

KEYWORDS Education for sustainable development, Singapore, environmental attitudes, knowledge-based economy, knowledge-enterprise

Cultural Assumptions against Sustainability: An International Survey

Barbara Gambini, Università degli Studi di Urbino, Department of Geography, Italy

ABSTRACT Despite the great progress in increasing public awareness of and attention to the issue of sustainability, the measures taken so far fall dramatically short of halting deleterious cycles. This apparent deficiency can be ascribed to two main factors: insufficient efforts to finding viable and visible alternatives and the failure to thoroughly re-examine dominant cultural paradigms. The widespread resistance to adopting more sustainable habits, in spite of the patent environmental crisis, suggests that there are persisting epistemological substrates so compelling as to be called ‘secular dogmas’. Higher education should undertake to promote both empirical research and applications, and systemic cultural critique. Geographers are among the most apt coordinators for such a complex interdisciplinary task. This paper shows the results of an international survey on some spatial, taxonomic and teleological macro-coordinates that underpin people's perception and representation of reality and thus influence the above-mentioned ‘secular dogmas’, which, if not properly addressed, may inexorably hinder the adoption of sustainable development models.

KEYWORDS Sustainability, cultural resistance, spatial and teleological paradigms

A Due Diligence Report on New Zealand's Educational Contribution to the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development

David Chapman, College of Education, Massey University, New Zealand
Mary Flaws, Co-Editor NZ Journal of Geography, New Zealand
Richard Le Heron, School of Geography and Environmental Science, University of Auckland, New Zealand

ABSTRACT Rather than assuming New Zealand's educational sectors and institutions will be active and effective contributors to the United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (UNDESD) the authors ask instead: ‘Are New Zealand's school and university sectors actually in a position to respond programmatically to the UN initiative?’ The paper first reviews past efforts to introduce environmental education and education for sustainable development either directly or indirectly in the New Zealand school curricula and in university courses and degrees. The sobering conclusion is that by 2004 the gains could at best only be described as partial, limited and marginal, and certainly not transformational. The paper then reports on the first year of the UNDESD related activity in New Zealand. Again, the efforts have been minimal and the impacts negligible. The New Zealand evidence suggests that until understanding of the constraints of existing educational frameworks is taken seriously, prospects are slim for anything other than rhetorical and cosmetic adjustments in educational curricula and educational outcomes. This realization means early political effort associated with the decade should be concerned less with grand visions and the content of local projects and more with removing institutional obstacles and impediments to creating a ‘sustainability mindset’.

KEYWORDS Environmental education, education for sustainable development, UNDESD, New Zealand universities, New Zealand schools, education stocktake

Sustainable Development within UK Higher Education: Revealing Tendencies and Tensions

William Scott, Centre for Research in Education and the Environment, University of Bath
Stephen Gough, Centre for Research in Education and the Environment, University of Bath

ABSTRACT In response to the various calls for sustainable development, a range of activities has been initiated by central and local government, business, NGOs and other institutions. In this paper, the authors focus on the important learning context of higher education. They review the agenda established at Rio and, through a critical examination of developments within the UK, comment on issues and challenges facing the sector.

KEYWORDS Higher Education Partnership for Sustainability, curriculum design toolkit, sustainable development, Earth Summit

A Centre for Excellence in Education for Sustainable Development

Alan Dyer, Centre for Sustainable Futures, University of Plymouth, UK
David Selby,Centre for Sustainable Futures, University of Plymouth, UK
Brian Chalkley, Higher Education Academy Subject Centre for Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Plymouth, UK

ABSTRACT The English higher education landscape has recently experienced a significant change with the addition of 74 Centres for Excellence in Teaching & Learning (CETLs), each one devoted to a particular educational issue or theme. This paper highlights a CETL which is of special interest to geographers in that it is focused on the promotion of education for sustainable development (ESD). The CETL is based at the University of Plymouth, UK, and is tasked with the responsibility of embedding a whole-university approach to sustainability. It will also seek to encourage best practice more widely, working with other institutions regionally, nationally and internationally.

KEYWORDS Education for sustainable development, sustainability literacy, environmental education

Sustainability Education in Scotland: The Impact of National and International Initiatives on Teacher Education and Outdoor Education

Peter Higgins, School of Education, University of Edinburgh, UK
Gordon Kirk, School of Education, University of Edinburgh, UK

ABSTRACT This article explores aspects of teacher education and outdoor education and their relationship with sustainability education (SE) in Scotland. It considers recent national and international developments in the field and in particular the UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) initiative to ‘re-orient teacher education towards sustainable futures’. The implications of such initiatives in schools and teacher education institutes are discussed in the context of formal provision (e.g. geography) and informal opportunities (e.g. citizenship education, outdoor education). The emphasis is on the Scottish experience with the policy and practice of the School of Education of the University of Edinburgh being discussed as an example in relation to this national and international framework.

KEYWORDS Sustainability, education for sustainable development, geography, citizenship, outdoor education, teacher training

Promoting Environmental Education for Sustainable Development: The Value of Links between Higher Education and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs)

Martin J. Haigh, Oxford Brookes University, Department of Geography, UK

ABSTRACT Environmental sustainability education, the dissemination of environmental education for sustainable development into the community, should be a lifelong process and not one restricted to a learner's years in higher education. Informal environmental sustainability education, including personal involvement in NGO environmental action, can be an effective way of increasing the understanding of environmental and sustainability issues. NGO projects help provide practical environmental education to environmentally aware people who have built their careers in other areas. In the process, they help environmental awareness to trickle into areas of life where it would not ordinarily impinge. In this case study of a community-based land reclamation research project, supported jointly by the NGO Earthwatch and Oxford Brookes University, analysis of the motivations and experiences of project volunteers shows that their aims include making a personal contribution to enhancing the quality of the environment and networking with like-minded individuals, and that they expect to carry their new understanding back into their everyday lives to influence other people in their workplace. Engagement in practical work and action research may help overcome some of the negativity linked to many assessments of the human impact on the environment and, working together, universities and NGOs can more effectively ‘think globally and act locally’. NGOs may provide the best hope for helping to change the destructive aspects of modern society but they are vulnerable through financial dependency on sponsors, volunteers and donors.

KEYWORDS Non-formal education, education for sustainable development, NGOs, Earthwatch, lifelong learning, environmental education in the community

The Firm and Shaky Ground of Education for Sustainable Development

David Selby, Centre for Sustainable Futures, University of Plymouth, UK

ABSTRACT This paper employs academic and parable forms to evaluate critically the strengths and weaknesses, potentials and lacunae of education for sustainable development (ESD) and other sustainability-related educations. The meteoric rise to prominence of ESD is first briefly reviewed, as is the firm ground it now stands upon as an international and national educational priority. The remainder of the paper explores the shaky ground of ESD: the field's reliance on a goal, sustainable development, which, in its by-and-large continued embrace of the growth principle, is a myopic response to the Earth condition; the field's embrace of an instrumentalist conception of nature when such a conception itself feeds unsustainability; the overly skills/training orientation of ESD and its stunted engagement with a range of key aspects of the human-nature relationship; the failure of ESD to realize its original breadth and promise in its marginalization of the voice of peace, social justice, anti-discriminatory, indigenous and futures educators as well as that of sustainability educators in the South; its adoption of an anachronistic ‘steady state’ conception of nature. Finally, it is suggested that sustainability-related education would be enriched and enlivened by fomenting a dynamic complementarity between notions of transience and sustainability

KEYWORDS Education for sustainable development, environmental education, environmental ethics, sustainability literacy, mechanistic worldview, transience

Phenomenography: An Approach to Research into Geography Education

Keith Trigwell, Oxford Learning Institute, University of Oxford, UK

ABSTRACT A phenomenographic approach to research into learning can be appropriate for exploring the approaches geography students adopt in their learning. This resources article provides a brief description of phenomenography. The essence of the approach is that it takes a relational qualitative perspective that aims to describe key aspects of variation in the collective experience of phenomena, rather than focusing on the individual experience. Phenomenonographic research is a major undertaking but is valuable in providing insights into how students understand the content they are learning and can be used to evaluate students' variation in all forms of experience within a learning and teaching context.

KEYWORDS Phenomenographic research, evaluation of learning and teaching, collective experience


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