Reviewing the use of environmental audits for environmental learning in school contexts: a case study of environmental auditing processes within a professional development course

by Hoffmann, P.A.

Abstract (Summary)
This case study focuses on the use of environmental audits for learning, by teachers participating in the Schools and Sustainability professional development course in Durban, South Africa. It reviews ways in which audits were choreographed and used for lessons within school contexts. It explores ways in which audits shaped meaning-making interactions and environmental learning processes. This is an interpretive case study, characterized by a moderate realist perspective. Data were generated through interviews with teachers, field observations, photographs, document analysis, and group interviews with learners. Data were analyzed using the general comparative method. The research takes place in the context of educational transformation in South Africa. Some of the challenges accompanying the shift to Outcomes Based Education seem to be associated with naïve interpretations of constructivism and a view of reality as socially constructed and relative. This seems to have influenced ways in which audits are being undertaken in school contexts. This study argues that a realist orientation to auditing may be a more useful process for engaging with the world and enhancing the way learners perceive and respond to environmental risk. Ideas about reality-congruence and the interacting processes of involvement and detachment are of central importance in understanding processes of knowledge construction and meaning making in this study. The study draws on the work of Elias (1987) and Latour (1999) to shed light on the significance of auditing processes in which a close engagement with reality, coupled with a measure of detachment, can lead to the construction of a more reality-congruent account and a more realistic assessment of the environmental issue in focus. Key findings of the study suggest that the effectiveness of environmental auditing as a pedagogical process was influenced by the teachers’ intentions, knowledge and skills, choreography of the audit, nature of the teaching and learning interactions, and ways in which teachers and learners engaged with the findings. The study recommends that auditing activities should be carefully structured and mediated by teachers to be meaningful and to enable learners to identify environmental issues, gather data, engage in critical reflection and deliberate appropriate responses for social and environmental transformation.
Bibliographical Information:


School:Rhodes University

School Location:South Africa

Source Type:Master's Thesis



Date of Publication:01/01/2007

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