Investigating the Associative Meanings of ‘Sustainability’ Among Greek Kindergarten Teachers

Dr Georgia Liarakou,
Dr Maria Daskolia,
Prof Evgenia Flogaitis
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During the last decades research in education has focused on exploring students’ ways of comprehending scientific concepts and phenomena as well as issues of the social reality. These studies, founded on the theory of constructivism, are premised on the pre-existing cognitive structures of the learners. In the same research tradition there are also studies focusing on teachers’ thinking about concepts, principles, processes and issues of their subject matter and how such formations are reflected in their teaching behaviour influencing the quality of the students’ learning. This kind of knowledge can then be used within an enhanced understanding of the educational praxis, in evaluating the teaching process or in supporting teachers’ professional training and development.

In environmental education the need to investigate how teachers view environmental education and its practices has been increasingly recognized. Significantly fewer are those studies which examine how certain concepts and issues of the socio-environmental reality, that are also central in the environmental education discourse, are perceived and discussed by them. However, there is a particular theoretical and practical interest in this line of research, as teachers’ conceptions on these matters reflect inherent ideologies and values, which are then echoed in their practice of environmental education.

The study reported in this paper was conducted among 159 Greek kindergarten teachers with an aim to identify and explore their conceptual frameworks on ‘sustainability’. This is a concept prominent in the environmental education discourse although not with a single and commonly approved meaning. What one meets in the literature and in practice is a pluralism of opinions and trends that produce many perspectives and forms of ‘sustainability’. These in their turn stem from and are involved in different ideological orientations and juxtapositions.

A free word association task was employed to identify the associative meanings of the concept among the participant teachers. The presence of four general thematic categories, either in a single or in a combined form, was revealed: ‘society’, ‘life’, ‘environment’ and ‘time/duration’. Respondents were also asked to provide a definition for ‘sustainability’, the content analysis of which identified the same scheme. However, in their majority the collected definitions could be characterised as vague and simplistic, and by thus reflecting a restricted understanding from the part of the teachers of the complexity and diversity of the ‘sustainability’ concept. The results of the study are discussed in terms of their theoretical relevance and their implications for kindergarten teacher education.

Keywords: Sustainability, Conceptions, Conceptual Frameworks, Definitions, Kindergarten Teachers, Word Association Technique, Environmental Education
Stream: Psychology, Cognitive Science and the Behavioural Sciences, Education and Social Welfare, Natural, Environmental and Health Sciences
Presentation Type: Virtual Presentation in English
Paper: Investigating the Associative Meanings of Sustainability Among Greek Kindergarten Teachers

Dr Georgia Liarakou

Lecturer, University of the Aegean

Dr Maria Daskolia

National and Kapodistrian University of Athens

Dr Maria Daskolia teaches graduate and postgraduate courses in environmental education in the Department of Philosophy, Education and Psychology at the University of Athens. She holds a masters degree in environmental psychology from the University of Surrey, UK, and a doctorate in environmental education from the University of Athens, Greece. Her current research interests are in the area of teachers' professional development in environmental education, the design and evaluation of teachers' preservice and inservice trainig, informal and nonformal environmental education, and children's and adults' conceptualisations of the environment and environmental problems.

Prof Evgenia Flogaitis

Professor, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens

Ref: I06P0294