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Exploring learners' participation in school environmental clubs.

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The United Nations declared 2005–2014 to be the Decade of Education for Sustainable Development. Environmental clubs (ECs) within an education system could play an important role in making positive change for sustainable environmental development in a society, by offering learners environmental knowledge and practical activities that they can participate in. This participation strategy is different from the learners receiving direct instructions on what to do from a teacher. The research questions that underpin this research are: Why do learners participate in environmental clubs and how do learners participate in environmental clubs? The theoretical framework that underpins this research is an adaption of the Contextual Model of Learning (CML) where learning is inextricably linked to participation. The CML is used to address the participation of learners which flows from the basic elements of personal, sociocultural and physical contexts, which overlap with one another. Insights from Agarwal’s typology of participation (2001) also inform the design and analysis of this study. This qualitative study is located in an interpretivist paradigm. The research sites were two schools in KwaZulu-Natal which had established environmental clubs. Executive members from the environmental club from one school, and executive and non-executive club members from another school, were purposively selected to form the sample in this study. Data collection methods comprised semi-structured interviews and observations. Data was analysed using the constructs from the CML as well as Agarwal’s (2001) typology of participation. The findings of this study are presented using the frames of sociocultural, physical and personal contexts, as explicated in the CML. The findings provide insight into how learners as EC members, participate in non-sequential learning, based on their prior knowledge, interests, and experiences. Their societies’ influence about what is valuable learning, within and outside of groups, as well as ways in which they navigate their learning environments physically and intellectually, offer insights into how and why learners participate in environmental clubs. Based on these findings, recommendations related learners’ participation in ECs are made.


M. Ed. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban 2013.


Academic achievement--South Africa--KwaZulu-Natal., Educational accountability--South Africa--KwaZulu-Natal., Curriculum enrichment--South Africa--KwaZulu-Natal., Theses--Education.