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An exploration of pre-service Geography teachers’ understanding and learning of environmental education at a University in Zimbabwe.

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Official Zimbabwean policy emphasises the need for communities to address environmental issues and develop values, skills and behaviour consistent with natural resource management for sustainable development. However, people of all ages engage in activities that degrade the biophysical environment. Thus, there is a need to transform the way the Zimbabwean population thinks and acts towards the environment. I argue, first, that teachers are key role players in the implementation of environmental education (EE) as well as raising awareness of environmental issues among learners and the communities in which they live and, second, that what teachers think, believe and know about EE affects and facilitates their teaching. Thus teachers need to be equipped with knowledge of environmental processes and systems and be committed to spurring learners towards appropriate environmental concern and action. In order to explore how pre-service geography teachers (PSGTs) can best understand and learn EE, this qualitative case study is located within the interpretative paradigm. Experiential learning theory (ELT) and participatory action research (PAR) underpin the study. The study site was a university in Zimbabwe. The study sought to ascertain pre-service geography teachers’ understanding of EE, their attitude towards teaching of EE and how they learn EE. Twenty pre-service geography teachers in their second year of study at the university were purposively selected to participate in this study. Data were generated through questionnaires, focus group interviews, photo-narratives and reflective diaries. Content analysis was used to analyse the data. The findings indicated that PSGTs understand that EE teaches people to conserve natural resources, develops their understanding of human-environment interactions and of the Earth’s processes, develops their skills in science and geography and promotes safe sustainable interactions. Pre-service geography teachers also believe that it is important to teach EE and that having sufficient pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) and a positive attitude would enable them to teach EE. Insufficient PCK and lack of resources are factors that would constrain the teaching of EE. The findings of this study highlight that teachers are more than mere subject matter specialists who are au fait with content knowledge and pedagogical knowledge, they also carry with them into the classroom their disposition. Their disposition is an innate part of who they are, influences their intuitions, their ability to make judgements, how they develop content, interpret curriculum, improvise, respond to situations as they occur whilst teaching and reflect on their teaching. Hence, the study makes a recommendation for the inclusion of an affective component in the current model of PCK, which has until now fore grounded only cognitive components.


Doctoral Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.