Research Summary

Predicting Participation in Environmental Education by Teachers in Coastal Regions of Tanzania

Using a Behavior Model to Predict Whether Teachers Adopt Environmental Education

The Journal of Environmental Education

The researchers in this study used a traditional behavior model to predict a non-traditional environmental behavior—teaching others about the environment. Typically, behavior models focus on direct actions, such as recycling. These researchers wondered whether models of direct action could also be applied to an indirect action such as teaching someone else.

The researchers focused on teachers in coastal Tanzania where the Jane Goodall Institute leads Roots & Shoots teacher training workshops. The researchers used Hungerford and Volk’s 1990 model of responsible environmental behavior as their guide. According to this model, environmental behavior is a function of three levels of variables that influence each other in turn: Entry-level variables (such as environmental sensitivity and knowledge of ecology) predict ownership variables (such as in-depth knowledge of issues and personal investment in issues), which in turn predict empowerment variables (such as skills for taking action, locus of control, and intention to act). These empowerment variables, in turn, affect behavior. The model the researchers used in this study differed only in that the three levels of variables predicted an intention to act, rather than the behavior itself.

The researchers surveyed nearly 400 teachers in coastal Tanzania. About half of the teachers had participated in the workshops and half had not. The trainings and followups encouraged participating teachers to share what they had learned with their colleagues. The researchers assumed that this transfer of knowledge happened and surveyed both the participants and their colleagues.

The results indicate that the model did predict the teachers’ intention to act. The three levels worked sequentially, although the results did differ slightly from the model in that entry level variables predicted empowerment and ownership scales equally well. (In contrast, the model suggests that entry level variables predict ownership, which in turn predicts empowerment.)

The authors note that this study was based on only one model of responsible environmental behavior. Other models might have been effective, too. The point of the study was not necessarily to test whether the model is valid, or whether one model works better than another, but to test whether the model can predict a different kind of behavior—namely, the indirect behavior of teaching someone else. They note that this may be the first attempt to test this idea, and more research is needed to better understand indirect behaviors such as teaching others.

The Bottom Line

This research indicates that Hungerford and Volk’s model of responsible environmental behavior can predict a teacher’s intention to teach environmental education. More research is required to confirm the results, but this research suggests an interesting new direction, as it used a behavior model to investigate the act of teaching environmental education. By contrast, behavior models are typically used to predict more direct environmental behaviors, such as recycling.