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The effects of different environmental education programs on the environmental behavior of seventh-grade students and related factors. (International Perspectives).


This study used random allocation to separate out groups of students from four Taipei junior high schools, each of which underwent a different environmental-education program, in order to examine the effects of such programs on students' environmental behavior and related factors. Results indicate that Taiwanese junior high schools should coordinate the teaching of environmental programs with other school activities to obtain the most ideal results.


It is reasonable to assume that today's environmental problems arise from the lifestyles humans lead. As a result of those lifestyles, public health has been endangered, and there has been a loss of ecological balance. Therefore, learning to respect nature and understanding how to coexist with and care for the environment are essential parts of lifelong learning, tasks everyone must henceforward face. One of the most fundamental chapters in this process of lifelong learning is environmental education in schools.

It has been reported, however, that for students today, the primary sources of information about the environment are television and other mass media, not the classroom (Disinger, 1990; Hausbeck, Enright, & Milbrath, 1992). Students' knowledge of the environment is limited and incomplete. The Kanagawa Prefecture Environmental Sciences Center (1991) and the Shinno Environmental Education Research Survey Committee (1992) found that students are more concerned with global environmental issues than they are with environmental phenomena experienced in daily life. In addition, the rate at which students practice environmental behaviors in daily life is rather low; for that reason, there is a need to further promote environmental education in schools.

Leeming, Cobern, Dwyer, & Porter (1993) pointed out that in the majority of past research into environmental education, problems with study design, materials, and methods of analysis have greatly limited the relevance of results. In view of that argument, the authors of the current study focused their research on an educational concept that they believed to be both rational and prudent-- namely, "resource conservation."

By examining junior-high-school students, whose notions regarding the world are just in the process of forming, the authors were able to combine learning activities and evaluation of the results. Moreover, they were able to consider what aspects--cognitive or affective--of environmental education need to be addressed in Taiwan's schools from this point on and to assess which educational approaches are most effective.

Methods and Materials

Research Design

This research adopted a quasi-experimental study design as shown in Figure 1.

Environmental-Education Programs at Different Schools

The vast majority of previous research in this field used study designs (such as formal classroom education and observation) in which the individual was the primary focus. By contrast, the present study was designed to include school activities and family participation in addition to the development of a classroom curriculum. The ideal intervention program thus had three components: curriculum design, school activities, and family participation.

Curriculum design included the following elements:

* Classroom instruction was aimed at the study of important concepts related to resource conservation. In total, five hours of classroom instruction were conducted.

* A field trip provided four hours of observation at a waste incineration plant.

* Audiovisual learning consisted of one hour spent viewing and discussing a cartoon video about the environment.

School activities included the following elements:

* class discussion--one hour in each class was spent on discussion and recording of ideas about predetermined topics related to resource conservation;

* speaker--a presentation was given on waste classification and recycling;

* answering questions for prizes--after the speaker's lecture was completed, 10 questions were created, and students were invited to answer;

* environmental slogan competition and exhibition;

* composition competition;

* poster creation contest; and

* recycling activities--collection and separation of school garbage.

The family-participation component included the following:

* family forum consisting of an informal discussion session on recycling and

* distribution of pamphlets to families.

Table 1 lists the educational approaches taken in each of the schools. Experimental School I used a curriculum that focused only on the individual student. Experimental School II examined the effectiveness of school activities and family participation in influencing the understanding of the surrounding environment. Experimental School Ill took the ideal approach, using individual student learning, school activities, and family participation to teach about environmental programs. The remaining school was designated as the control school, at which no educational program was conducted.

Research Subjects

The subjects for this study were found among municipal junior high schools in Taipei. First, a general overview was taken of the environmental-education programs already in effect at the schools and of the extent to which each school was willing to participate. The number of students at each school and the community environment, among other factors, were assessed, and four schools that were very similar in these respects were selected.

Three seventh-grade class sections were randomly selected from each of the schools--453 individuals altogether. After implementation of the educational program, post-program testing and follow-up testing were conducted. Students who had not participated in half or more of the educational activities and students who did not fill out one or more of the surveys were eliminated. In total, 396 individuals (85.2 percent of the initial sample) participated in the experiment and constituted the population used for all statistical data analysis. The number of individuals in each school group is given in Table 2.

Evaluation Tools

In recent years, educational-diagnosis concepts from the PRECEDE Model (Green & Kreuter, 1991) have been widely used in school health education programs. From that model, the evaluation framework for this study was developed as shown in Figure 2. All evaluation items were combined into a single questionnaire that covered the following topics:

* environmental behaviors in resource conservation (conservation of water and electricity, reduction, reuse, and recycling) -- 16 questions;

* environmental knowledge-13 questions;

* environmental attitudes-12 questions;

* environmental sensitivity-12 questions;

* level of environmental concern-12 questions;

* level of influence from teachers, family, and peers-14 questions;

* knowledge of the capacity to induce changes in behavior (skill knowledge)-10 questions;

* self-efficacy--five questions; and

* educational activities of the school--seven questions.

In addition, students were asked to take home a 15-item questionnaire (a total of 30 questions) for their household. This questionnaire examined both family practices and the day-to-day instruction of the child in the home.

The questionnaires were administered three times:

1. before implementation of an environmental-education program (the "pretest"),

2. two weeks after implementation of an environmental-education program (the "post-test"), and

3. two months after the post-test (the "follow-up test").

Responses were scored as follows:

* For questions that addressed environmental knowledge and skill knowledge, one point was assigned for a correct answer and zero points were assigned for an incorrect or "not sure" answer.

* For questions that addressed environmental attitudes, environmental sensitivity, environmental concern, reinforcing factors, and self-efficacy, a five-point Likert scale was used.

* For questions that addressed environmental behavior and parents' behavior and attitudes, a four-point Likert scale was used.

* For questions that addressed school activities and policy, a response of "yes" received one point, and a response of "no" received zero points.


The data obtained from the pretest were used as the covariance, thus providing the covariance test results for each variable. Table 3 provides the Scheffe's post-hoc test results for the significant variables.

Effect of the Educational Programs on Environmental Knowledge

The educational approaches of Experimental School I and Experimental School III were shown to significantly increase the environmental knowledge of students, while the approach of Experimental School II was ineffective in this area.

Effect of the Educational Programs on Environmental Attitudes

There was no significant difference between the schools; however, there was a significant difference between the effects seen in posttests and those seen in follow-up tests. On the whole, the adjusted mean of students' scores (49.13) for the follow-ups were significantly lower than the adjusted mean for the post-tests (50.32).

Effect of the Educational Programs on Environmental Sensitivity

The results showed that the adjusted mean score (50.95) for the follow-up test at Experimental School I was considerably lower than that of the post-test (53.63). The other schools did not exhibit this difference. When either the post-tests or the follow-up tests from each of the four schools were compared with one another, they showed no significant difference by school. From these results, it can be seen that none of the educational approaches was able to increase student environmental sensitivity.

Effect of Educational Programs on Environmental Concern

The effects of the programs on environmental concern showed significant variation by school. Nevertheless, after Scheffe's post-hoc comparison was made, no marked difference was found between any two schools.

Effect of Educational Programs on Reinforcing Factors

The effect of the educational program on reinforcing factors showed significant variation only by "test." Furthermore, the adjusted mean of the follow-up test (54.20) was lower than that of the post-test (56.08). These results indicate that the educational program had no apparent effectiveness with respect to reinforcing factors.

Effect of Educational Programs on Parents' Behavior and Instruction of Children

For these two variables, there was no significant difference between schools, nor was there significant difference between post-test and follow-up test.

Effect of Educational Programs on Self-Efficacy

The educational approaches of Experimental School I and School III had an immediate effect, but a short-term effect (after two months) was not apparent. The approach used in Experimental School II was not significantly effective in enhancing students' self-efficacy

Effect of Educational Programs on School Educational Activities and Policy

The adjusted mean value of the post-test was significantly greater than that of the follow up. In addition, experimental schools II and III had greater post-test and follow-up values than did School I and the control school, indicating that the implementation rate for educational activities in experimental schools II and III was greater.

Effect of Educational Programs on Skill Knowledge

The numbers obtained for skill knowledge at each of the three experimental schools were no higher than those at the control school.

Effect of Educational Programs on Environmental Behavior

The adjusted mean for the post-test obtained from Experimental School III was greater than that obtained from the control school; however, the follow-up test found no difference among the four schools. In other words, the educational approach used at Experimental School III was immediately effective, but the effectiveness of this educational approach did not continue after two months.

Summary of Results

It was learned that the educational approach of Experimental School I, which focused on the individual, was effective in increasing environmental knowledge and that the effectiveness continued even after two months. It was also quite effective in enhancing self-efficacy The short-term effectiveness (after two months) was, however, not significant, and although there was fair progress in the areas of environmental behavior, environmental concern, and skill knowledge, there was no marked difference from a statistical standpoint.

Experimental School II relied primarily on activities that involved the entire school in environmental education. Other than showing greater figures in comparison with the control school in the results of "school policy and educational activities," the effectiveness of enhancing knowledge and attitudes was not at all significant. Experimental School III, using the approaches of both Experimental School I and II, was immediately and clearly effective in the area of knowledge and was able to maintain this trend after two months. This combined approach was also effective in strengthening environmental behavior and self-efficacy; however, the short-term effectiveness for this variable (after two months) was not significant.


A vast amount of research like that reported here documents effectiveness in the area of knowledge. Yet in areas such as environmental attitudes and concerns, similar effectiveness has not been evident. For example, Lauer (1991) evaluated the effects of a semester-long period of ecological studies among college students, comparing the effectiveness of a lecture with that of a lecture-plus-discussion method and that of a lecture-plus-experiment method. That research found that groups of students taught with all three methods exhibited progress in the area of know ledge, but that in the affective realm (environmental attitudes and concerns), there was no significant change. Ramsey (1993) evaluated the effectiveness of 18 weeks of environmental-science studies among eighth-grade students and found that there was a marked increase in skill knowledge, but that the level of students' environmental sensitivity did not change. Other research (Bogner, 1998; Gerakis, 1998; and Shepard & Speelman, 1985) has examined cha nge in environmental attitudes or concern. All of these previous studies gave results similar to those reported here: no evident changes in environmental attitudes or affect about environmental concerns. As a result, many researchers have inferred that more time might need to be spent in order to influence the affective realm.

Overall, it can be stated that increasing student knowledge is reasonably simple, but that the affective realm, which encompasses beliefs, attitudes, and values, is generally difficult to change. In addition, Hepburn, Shrum, and Simpson (1978) and Horsley (1977) have reasoned that if, before the commencement of an experiment, the students already have a high degree of environmental consciousness, then the effectiveness of the educational methods will not always be evident. The research reported here, however, found that two of the approaches taken were significantly effective in the area of "self-efficacy," which is related to the affective realm.

It can therefore be noted that the teaching design used in this research was effective not only in the area of knowledge, but also in part in the affective realm. It can also be observed that Experimental School II, whose educational approach focused primarily on school activities, showed marked change only in the rate at which "educational activities" were implemented. That change may be considered a natural result of this approach, while no improvement was apparent in student environmental knowledge and consciousness as a whole.

For a long time, environmental education in Taiwan's schools has primarily emphasized school environmental activities. These activities have been merged into various courses of study, although environmental education has leaned mostly toward schoolwide activities such as recycling and beautifying of campuses (Yen & Liao, 1998). The reason is that by comparison with day-to-day classroom learning, school activities of these types more easily manifest visible results from which authorities can appraise the merits of environmental-education developments within a school.

Acknowledging that environmental education is a long-term undertaking and building it up within the atmosphere of a schooling environment can gradually and unobtrusively shape student awareness. Therefore, although the results of the present study show that the immediate and short-term effects of school educational activities are unclear, one cannot deny the value of these activities. If schools could pair course subjects with educational activities, however, the results could be even more ideal.

Among the four schools that participated in this study, only Experimental School III, which combined teaching and activities, had improvement in the area of environmental behavior. Curriculum or school activities alone simply are not enough to change environmental behavior. Skinner (1987) has pointed out that it is difficult to change behavior solely through educational procedures unless the target behavior is single, simple, and accessible.

Although the overall level of environmental behavior and activities showed a significant increase in this study, that result does not mean that all 16 of the environmental-behavior items asked about on the questionnaires showed change. For analysis, the authors selected four behaviors for which the rate of practice was low, including "carrying your own shopping bag," "refusing extra packaging," "recycling at home," and "recycling at school." Further analysis indicated that only "recycling at school" exhibited a significant increase as a result of the environmental-education programs conducted in the course of this study. Similarly, Experimental School II, at which environmental education consisted only of school activities, exhibited marked improvement in the area of "recycling at school," thereby entirely verifying Skinner's statement that educational interventions can affect simple target behaviors but may not be as effective in producing more generalized behavioral changes.


Acknowledgements: A special word of thanks is due to the Taiwan National Science Council for financial assistance. The authors also are grateful to the administration of the National Taiwan Normal University for its support and to the teachers and students of the four junior high schools involved for their cooperation in this study Without the assistance of all of these individuals, the research could not have been successfully completed.

This study used random allocation to separate out groups of students from four Taipei junior high schools, each to undergo a different environmental-education program, in order to examine the effectiveness of different approaches. Results indicated that an instructional curriculum focusing on the individual could markedly increase knowledge and self-efficacy An approach that created an atmosphere of environmental preservation through schoolwide educational activities and improvement of the school environment significantly increased the recycling behaviors of students but otherwise produced no marked cognitive or affective changes. An educational program that combined both of these approaches was effective in both ways. In addition, the overall rate at which environmental behaviors were practiced showed an immediate increase. This research thus suggests that environmental-education programs in Taiwan junior high schools should be implemented within a learning base of related curricula and should complement thi s classroom education with school activities in order to obtain greater results. Teacher training and the design of teaching materials to complement the goals of environmental education are especially important now and for the future.

Corresponding Author: Chen-Yin Tung, Associate Professor, Department of Education, National Taiwan Normal University 162 Hoping East Road, Sec. 1, Taipei 106, Taiwan ROC. E-mail: <>.

Did you know

Radon in air is the second leading cause of lung cancer.

Source: U.S. Geological Survey


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Disinger, J.E (1990). Needs and mechanisms for environmental learning in schools. Educational Horizons, 69(1), 29-36.

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Hepburn, MA., Shrum, J.W., & Simpson, R.D. (1978). Effects of coordinated environmental studies in social studies and science on student attitudes toward the environment. Science Education, 66(4), 689-692.

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Kanagawa Prefecture Environmental Sciences Center. (1991). Report on attitudes regarding environmental problems and studies. Tokyo, Japan: Author.

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[Figure 1 omitted]

[Figure 2 omitted]

Education Approaches Implemented in Each School

Educational Approach Experimental Experimental
 School I School II

Classroom instruction [check]
Field trip [check]
Audiovisual learning [check]
Class discussion [check]
Speaker [check]
Answer question [check]
Environmental slogan competition [check]
Composition competition [check]
Poster creation contest [check]
Recycling [check]
Family forum [check]
Pamphlets to families [check]

Educational Approach Experimental Control
 School III School

Classroom instruction [check]
Field trip [check]
Audiovisual learning [check]
Class discussion [check]
Speaker [check]
Answer question [check]
Environmental slogan competition [check]
Composition competition [check]
Poster creation contest [check]
Recycling [check]
Family forum [check]
Pamphlets to families [check]

Number of Participants in Each Test Group

 Experimental Experimental Experimental Control Total
 School I School II School III School

Pretest 111 111 116 115 453
Post-test 108 111 110 115 444
Follow-up 108 110 107 113 438
Analysis 97 104 98 97 396

Summary of the Adjusted Mean and Scheffe's Test for Variables
Exhibiting a Significant Difference Between Schools

Variables Test Experimental Experimental Experimental
 School I School II School III

Environmental Post-test 10.10 8.95 10.68
knowledge Follow-up 10.07 8.36 9.98

Self-efficacy Post-test 20.93 18.96 20.41
 Follow-up 18.82 18.52 18.93

School educational Post-test 11.01 12.65 12.21
activities & policy Follow-up 10.75 12.27 12.08

Skill knowledge Post-test 7.98 7.55 8.04
 Follow-up 7.63 7.12 7.26

Environmental Post-test 49.21 47.48 49.27
behavior Follow-up 48.49 48.57 48.04

Variables Control Scheffe Test
 (C) School

Environmental 8.97 I > II, C; III > II, C
knowledge 8.99 I > II, C; III> II

Self-efficacy 19.87 I > II, C; III > II, C
 18.37 NS

School educational 10.59 II > I, C; III > I, C
activities & policy 10.63 II > I, C; III > I, C

Skill knowledge 7.40 NS
 7.19 NS

Environmental 46.26 III > C
behavior 45.95 NS

NS = not significant.
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Article Details
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Author:Kawata, Chieko
Publication:Journal of Environmental Health
Article Type:Statistical Data Included
Geographic Code:9TAIW
Date:Mar 1, 2002
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