Exploring the Development of Student Agency from the Perspectives of Young Canadian Eco-Civic Leaders

Title: Exploring the Development of Student Agency from the Perspectives of Young Canadian Eco-Civic Leaders
Authors: Glithero, Elizabeth
Date: 2015
Abstract: This study investigates how Canadian youth, nationally recognized as eco-civic leaders, perceive their own sense of agency and their capacity to effect ‘change.’ More specifically, this study explores how these youth are interpreting change (i.e., attitudinal, behavioural, social, political, etc.), and what their perspectives reveal about the relationship between school and community-based environmental learning experiences and their capacity to make change in society. This project explores the notion of ‘student agency’ as it relates to an emerging trend of environmental action learning aimed at active citizenship within the fields of environmental education (EE) and to a lesser extent, civics education. Drawing on different qualitative research methodologies, such as but not limited to narrative inquiry, 34 past recipients/finalists of the Toyota Earth Day Canada Scholarship participated in this study. I used three different dimensions of environmental action learning to construct the conceptual lens through which the findings were interpreted. My findings suggest a critical gap exists between how EE is widely practiced in Canadian schools (i.e., environmentally responsible stewarding), and how it is currently being taken up in recent EE policy and research (i.e., developing capacity to effect broader socio-ecological change). In turn, this research asserts that although we are cultivating ‘good stewards’ and ‘good citizens,’ we are not educating youth toward becoming ‘change agents.’ As such, the majority of youth in this study demonstrate an egocentric perception of their identity and capacity as young eco-civic leaders. Consequently, my research suggests that specific learning conditions, including youth and adults serving as co-participants in community-based action projects aimed at broader social, political, and environmental change, are important in the development of student agency.
URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10393/32335
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