Environmental Education for Secondary Students in the United States: A Grounded Theory Systematic Review
Bowers, Alison Wofford
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Environmental educators work to create an environmentally literate citizenry that is willing and able to tackle complex environmental problems such as climate change, potable water availability, and biodiversity loss. Environmental education (EE) research is a robust field that links practice and research, but lacks a comprehensive model connecting practices and outcomes. The goal of this grounded theory systematic review (GT-SR) was to create a model that identifies the context, strategies, outcomes, and core category associated with EE for secondary students in the United States (U.S.). Systematic review methods were used to locate and screen relevant, peer-reviewed research indexed in academic databases. The first search term, "environmental education," identified studies about EE. To narrow results to those focused on secondary education (grades 6–12), twelve search terms related to middle school and high school were used. After limiting the search to studies published between 2011 and 2018 and in English, 1,009 unique citation records were identified. A screening process for relevancy and quality excluded 982 records leaving 27 studies in the initial final sample. Theoretical sampling identified an additional 12 studies through a second database search and ancestry searching. Data from the 39 studies were analyzed through initial, focused, and theoretical coding using the constant comparative method. During initial coding, descriptive and In Vivo codes were used to organize the data into meaningful chunks. Focused and theoretical coding were used to further abstraction and identify categories. "Authenticity" emerged as the core category suggesting that, in order to be effective, EE for secondary students in the U.S. must be viewed as authentic in the eyes of the participants. The coding process informed the development of the Implementation of Authentic Environmental Education Programs (IAEEP) model. Although not designed to be applicable to all contexts, the model will aid EE practitioners in developing and implementing EE programs for secondary students in the U.S. and guide researchers as they evaluate EE programs. The development of the model also supports the use of a GT-SR as an appropriate and useful method for identifying, screening, and analyzing existing research to create a theoretical model.
General Audience Abstract
Environmental educators work to create an environmentally literate citizenry that is willing and able to tackle complex environmental problems such as climate change, lack of potable water, and loss of biodiversity. Environmental education research is a robust field that links practice and research, but lacks a comprehensive model that connects practices with agreed-upon outcomes. This systematic review used a grounded theory approach to create a grounded theory model that identifies the strategies, context, conditions, core category, and outcomes associated with environmental education for secondary students in the United States. Systematic review methods and theoretical sampling were used to locate and screen relevant, peer-reviewed environmental education research. Data from the primary studies were analyzed using initial, focused, and theoretical coding using the constant comparison method. Integration of data from the systematic review and theoretical sampling informed the development of the Implementation of Authentic Environmental Education Programs (IAEEP) model. This model will aid practitioners in developing and implementing environmental education programs for secondary students and guide researchers as they further evaluate environmental education programs.
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