Fredricks, et al. Strong, Silver and Robinson identified four goals and related needs that motivate engagement which are: success and need for mastery; curiosity and need for understanding; originality and need for self expression; relationship and need for involvement with others. Curiosity in a topic is related to the value and relevance of that topic personally to the learner Strong et al.
Originality and self expression are associated with autonomy and choice.
People have an inner drive toward interpersonal involvement so relationships and belonging are motivating to individuals Strong et al. Other factors that affect engagement are related to complex, enriching learning environments. Influences outside the realm of school such as family, culture and community affect engagement. But educational context, along with teacher and peer support, also have a great influence on engagement.
Ross and Olsen define an enriching environment as a stimulating setting which is alive with resources and reflective of real life. In terms of educational context, a strong and unique predictor of engagement is challenging tasks in authentic environments Fredrick et al. In How People Learn, Bransford states that learners are more motivated and engaged when they can use what they have learned to do something that has an impact on others-especially their local community.
So, we come full circle back to the notion of place as meaningful context for engagement. The simplified illustration of the head, hand and heart model does not show the myriad of relationships that place has with how an individual thinks, feels and engages with the world. Ecology is a multi-disciplinary study that includes all branches of science: biology, geology, chemistry, meteorology, hydrology, forestry, agriculture, soil science, etc.
The interaction of people with ecology adds subjects such as psychology, anthropology, philosophy, economics, politics, etc. Blending it all together is a daunting task especially in the environment of specialization that permeates academia. A holistic framework from the personal perspective of head, heart and hands is a starting point to model changes in the approach to ecological sustainability and educational reform that offers meaning and purpose to the learner.
Sustainability requires localizing by learning about the places in which we live. Because we are so far removed from life-sustaining systems, we give them little thought.
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If people were, not just aware, but experienced in their local bioregion, they could directly learn how ecosystems support life Pyle, Caring attitudes expand values and the willingness to make lifestyle changes that contribute to sustainable communities. Love of place underlies the motivation to change behaviors.
Local environments can serve as a resource or laboratory to investigate water issues, food production, energy, nutrient cycles, and waste flows, which will lead to eco-literate citizens who reflect upon their impact on their environment and value the reduction of their ecological footprint Orr, ; Theobald, The Head, Heart and Hands model of Transformative Learning could be an organizing principle to integrate and transform pedagogical perspectives for sustainability education Sipos, et al.
The essential elements of transformation— deep engagement, relational knowing and reflection can have a greater impact within an authentic context for meaning-making. Being able, to some extent, to quantify a qualitative experience is invaluable to researchers. Relevant educational experiences are needed to reshape teaching and learning for more productive means Sipos et al. Through deep engagement, reflection and relational understandings, students find personal meaning and relevance in learning locally. Bridging the gap between school, community and environment, between living and learning, allows students to develop and apply knowledge and skills in the immediate context of real life just as our ancestors did and indigenous people continue to do today.
Without expanded perspective of self and environment, expanded value of relational knowing, and changes in environmental behaviors, sustainability will not be obtainable. Sustainable communities will not be built through legislation or technological innovations, they will be created by committed people who are informed, who care and who take action. The framework of head, heart and hands illustrates people progressing from knowing to caring to loving to doing. Environmental education research focuses on environmental behaviors, environmental awareness and advocacy but less on the holistic growth and development of the learner in other areas.
Outdoor educators know that something intangible happens to people in natural landscapes. They change and are transformed, but this qualitative phenomenon is difficult to measure and explain.
Perhaps love is the intangible piece that is challenging to researchers. As our country faces rising dropout rates and low international academic ratings, the federal government is seeking innovative programs that can show positive outcomes. If something as simple as taking students outdoors and involving them in their own community can get them excited enough to personally engage themselves in sustainable behaviors, then it is worth investment. American Association for the Advancement of Science Science for all Americans.
New York: University of Oxford Press. Athman Ernst, J. Baviskar, S.
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