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Environmental Education Outcomes

November 7 – December 16, 2017

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Registration deadline: November 6,  2017

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Description: Is the goal of environmental education to instill pro-environmental behaviors, foster collective environmental action, or developing healthy and productive citizens? Through short pre-recorded lectures, podcasts, readings, social media, and live webinars, this course will help you define your environmental education goals and learn what the research says is the best pathway to achieve them. Topics include environmental behaviors, collective action, norms, identity, self- and political-efficacy, social capital, knowledge, values, attitudes, positive youth development, health benefits of nature, academic achievement, and critical thinking. Students develop their own theory of change outlining how to reach their environmental education goals. Through this course, you will apply research-based knowledge to start new or enhance existing environmental education programs, strengthen your professional networks by exchanging ideas and resources with peer educators and university students around the world, and gain professional credentials.

Participants: Beginning and more experienced environmental educators, including teachers, nonformal educators, environmental and park managers, zoo and garden educators, volunteers, and university students. Available to students in any country. Lectures are in English with subtitles in English, Chinese, and Spanish.

Cost: Suggested $50 fee. Options available to pay a higher fee to sponsor another student or pay a lower or no fee if you have limited ability to pay or live in a country without credit card or Alipay system.

Certificates: Participants who complete the course are awarded a Cornell University certificate. Students who complete all assignments in Weeks 1-4 will earn the Achievement Certificate. Students who complete all assignments in Weeks 1-4 plus complete the course project will earn the Expert Certificate. Weekly assignments include watching lectures, readings, and discussion questions. Course project is a diagram and short narrative of your theory of change for your current or future environmental education program.

Educational approach: The course is based in three principles: (1) Learning is social: we learn effectively within a social context, thus networking and exchange of ideas among participants is crucial; (2) Learning can lead to innovation: course participants can work together building on the course materials to develop new ideas for environmental education; and (3) Learning can foster practice change: we will discuss how course ideas and new ideas emerging in this course can be implemented in real environmental education programs. The course uses the edX edge learning management system and optional closed groups on Facebook, WeChat, Telegram, and other social media to facilitate idea and resource exchange.

Learning outcomes

Through this course, you will:

  1. Understand different environmental education goals and define your own program goal(s).
  2. Become familiar with research about what works and doesn’t work in reaching different program goals.
  3. Expand your professional network to support your future environmental education programs.
  4. Diagram and explain a theory of change appropriate for your educational programs.

Course Instructors: Yue Li and Marianne Krasny, Cornell University Civic Ecology Lab

Duration: 4 weeks (approximately 4 hours of work per week), plus 2 weeks to complete course project.

Dates: November 7 – December 16, 2017. Note that in recognition of US Thanksgiving holiday, we will give all students an extra week to complete the materials.

Course organization and topics overview

TOC Framework

  • Environmental education has two major goals related to caring for the environment—individual environmental behavior and collective action. [Week 1]
  • Three factors are important in both changing individual behaviors and fostering collective action: efficacy (self and collective or political), norms (personal moral and social), and identity (individual ecological and social environmental). Three other factors to take into consideration when trying to change individual behaviors are knowledge, values and attitudes. An additional factor to take into account for collective action is social capital and trust. [Weeks 2-4, extra week because of Thanksgiving]
  • Environmental education has goals besides those directly related to the environment: health and well-being, positive youth development, and academic achievement [Week 5—Achievement Certificate]
  • You can define your program goals (individual behavior, collective action, health/well-being, positive youth development, academic achievement) and then use research to determine the best pathways to get there. [Week 6—Expert Certificate]

Course Outline

Each week includes 2-4 prerecorded short lectures, readings, short podcast interviews with experts, and short assignments. During the course, we will also hold optional live webinars to allow students to hear from experts, ask questions, and discuss ideas with other students and instructors.

Week 1: Environmental education outcomes (7-13 November)

We introduce the course and two prominent outcomes of environmental education, and students introduce themselves and their work or studies to each other.

  • Topics: Course introduction, Environmental behaviors, Collective environmental action

Week 2: Pathways to collective action (14-20 November)

Collective, social or environmental identity, social norms, political efficacy, and social capital are all pathways leading to collective action to address underlying causes of environmental problems.

  • Topics: Identity, Norms, Political efficacy, Social capital (Note that the first two pathways, identity and norms, are also relevant to Unit 3.)

Weeks 3-4: Environmental behaviors (21 November – 1 December)

Self-efficacy, values, knowledge, and attitudes are connected to our individual decisions about environmental behaviors. Two additional pathways, identity and personal moral norms, also predict individual environmental behaviors. For Unit 3, students have two weeks to complete assignments to accommodate US students celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday. This should also enable any student who is behind to catch up.

  • Topics: Self-efficacy, Values, Knowledge, Attitudes

Week 5: Other environmental education outcomes (2-8 December)

Some professionals and volunteers conduct environmental education programs to reach health, youth development, and academic achievement goals rather than environmental behavior or collective action.

  • ­­Topics: Health and well-being, Positive youth development, Academic achievement and critical thinking

Week 6: Final Project: Theory of change (9-15 December)

We review program design principles that emerge from studies of environmental education covered in the course. We also present a method for developing your theory of change, which describes your desired program outcomes, intermediate goals needed to reach those outcomes, and pathways or activities to reach those goals.

  • Topics: Program design principles, Theory of change

Final Project (Expert Certificate)

Students wishing to earn the Expert Certificate will develop a final project, which is a diagram and short narrative explaining their theory of change, including program outcomes, intermediate objectives, and pathways and activities to reach those objectives.

Course EmailCivicEcologyLab@gmail.com