Opportunities and Barriers for Ontario Teachers in their Delivery of Environmental Education using Information and Communication Technologies
thesisposted on 07.12.2021, 16:40 by Courtney Carrier
Teaching and learning about the environment in the present day is filled with possibility, challenge, and urgency. Government-mandated environmental curriculum, where it exists, can provide important pedagogical and content guidance. However, bottom-up and teacher-initiated approaches to the timely delivery of relevant and contemporary environmental education are required. This research identifies and describes barriers and opportunities to the delivery of environmental education in Ontario, Canada. It also explores the receptivity of teachers to the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) as tools to complement existing instructional methods, and proposes refocusing on local geographies to exemplify human-environment interactions. Two methods of data collection were used: an online survey (n=54), a semi-structured focus group (n=18). Both approaches engaged teachers within the Toronto District School Board (TDSB), Canada’s largest school board. Three-quarters of study participants (76%) identified that teaching about the environment with hands-on assignments (e.g., data collection, field observations, experiments) was beneficial to student learning. A similar majority of teachers (74%) agreed that environmental education was an afterthought in the Ontario curriculum. A strong positive response from teachers was solicited when they were asked if ICTs were useful teaching tools. Using a Mantel-Haenszel test of trend, teachers’ perception of student enjoyment in, and engagement with, subject matter was shown to be significantly positively associated with the frequency of environmental content included in their lessons (p<0.000). NVivo software was used with content arising from the focus group discussion, and a content analysis was run to identify the frequency with which educators described current environment-related teaching, providing both new details and offering greater context to the online survey responses. While highlighting systemic weaknesses in the delivery of environmental education in Ontario, this study identified tangible avenues that teachers and schools can pursue in order to bridge the gap between environmental rhetoric and action-oriented practice.
Keywords: environmental education, place-based learning, Ontario, information and communication technology (ICTs), policy, mixed methods