Assessing transformative learning impacts on 1st year university students using large-scale conservation projects on students’ environmental attitudes and pro-environmental behaviors
Sammanfattning: Aim: The world today is facing many environmental and sustainability problems.The aim of this research project is to examine the effects of large scale conservation projects on participants' environmental attitudes and pro-environmental behaviors. In this research study participants in a USA based study abroad program in Costa Rica planted 1000 native hardwood trees in the Barbilla-Destierro Biological Subcorridor to offset their carbon emissions from travel to and from the program site. The key factors contributing to transformational effects were examined through a survey and qualitative interviews with participants. Theory: Education that is truly transformative and enables students and youth to engage with environmental problems and become solution oriented thinkers is needed in educational programs and institutions today.Transformative education is teaching and learning geared to motivate and empower happy and healthy learners to transform taken-for-granted frames of reference and make them more reflective guiding them to action at the individual, community and global level. Method: A mixed method research approach using survey data and qualitative interviews with students who attended a large scale tree planting conservation project in Costa Rica, was developed to examine transformational learning effects as well as effects on participant’s environmental attitudes and pro-environmental behaviors. A general inductive approach was used to condense the raw data and interview transcripts into a brief summary format. Patterns and themes in the interviews emerged to provide a clear understanding of four key reasons Tree Planting Day was a transformative educational experience. Results: Large scale conservation activities like tree planting can unlock the door to a transformative educational experience. Large scale conservation activities change environmental attitudes in the short-term. However, strong environmental attitudes were not linked or strong indicators of pro-environmental behavior change longitudinally six months after attending Tree Planting Day. When assessing transformative effects, connection to place, community-building and team-work, experiential learning or hands in the dirt activities, giving-back and volunteering, as well as having the activity connected to multiple disciplines were instrumental in creating transformational educational experience for participants.
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