Environmental knowledge and beliefs among grade ten students in Australia Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/8623j236v

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  • The purpose of the study was to survey aspects of environmental knowledge and beliefs among Grade 10 students in Australia, in the belief that such information would be useful for workers in the developing field of environmental education there. A survey instrument prepared and used for a similar purpose in the USA was used in the study, after adaptation to suit the Australian situation. The new instrument contained 40 items in two areas called "knowledge" and "beliefs." One of the 30 items in the knowledge section was designed to trace the major source of student information about the environment, while one of the 10 belief items concerned perceived local problems. Best responses were identified for each of the 29 multiple choice knowledge items, while a selected panel of environmentalists and educators provided a common reference point for the nine remaining belief items, so that a composite attitude measure could be obtained. This reference point was that of an attitude favoring the preservation of homo sapiens. In modifying the original instrument, the SMOG grading was used to ensure that the readability of the final instrument was at the Grade 10 level. From a two-stage sampling method in which the first stage (secondary schools) was drawn with a probability proportional to size, 174 schools were asked to each provide 30 students who would complete the instrument. Within each of the six Australian states, all school types (Government, Catholic and Independent) were represented in the proportion of their Grade 10 populations. The collected student responses were analyzed by standard computer programs, with comparisons being made with respect to the independent variables of state of residence, school type, region (metropolitan or not), sex and membership of a self-identified group derived from responses to the "major source of environmental knowledge" item. For item by item comparisons, chi-square measures were used to investigate hypotheses that the frequency of correct knowledge responses, or of agree-with-panel belief responses was the same for each group within the independently variable sample populations. In an attempt to avoid spurious significances, and to emphasize practical differences, a confidence level of 0.001 was chosen. Analysis of variance procedures were applied to the means of total knowledge and total attitude scores. The same confidence level was used again. Findings Of the 174 schools approached, 160 or 92% replied positively, providing the responses of 4821 students. A general examination of the responses revealed a number of areas of knowledge inadequacy. The composite attitude displayed was one which could be regarded as supportive of measures designed to preserve the species homo sapiens. Responses to several items suggested that such positive and general attitudes might not be stable when individual conveniences or freedoms were threatened. On an item by item basis, most differences in response were associated with state of residence, with sex and with membership of one of the self-identified "source of knowledge" groups. When total scores were considered, differences in the knowledge section were associated with sex and "source of knowledge." Males gave superior responses to those from females in this section. In the attitude section, differences were associated with school type, region and with knowledge source, but not with sex. Responses to the "source of information" item indicate that as far as these students are concerned, schools are not yet providing them with special environmental education courses which supply the major component of their knowledge about environmental matters. On the other hand, the very positive response of the schools to the study is taken as an indicator that Australian secondary schools have a high degree of interest in gaining information which could be useful to them in future environmental education programming.
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