Environmental education and socio-ecological resilience in the COVID-19 pandemic: Lessons from educational action research

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Abstract

The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted daily life globally, including education. Environmental science cautions that we must expect further disruptions as the sustainability crisis deepens. Resilience to these disruptions will be key to humanity’s survival in years to come. The pandemic constitutes a litmus test for environmental education’s effectiveness in fostering socio-ecological resilience. This paper uses Educational Action Research (EAR) to report on the impact of an environmental education intervention on students’ socio-ecological resilience during the pandemic. Using two-step participatory thematic analysis as part of the reflection phase of the EAR cycle, the author interviewed twenty students from a liberal arts college in The Netherlands about their perspectives on the pandemic. The findings suggest that environmental education can catalyse a change of perspective on the purpose of education, from instrumental to social-transformative; bring about greater concern for others in times of crisis; help to develop greater awareness of the systemic underpinnings of crises; and spur some students to take concrete action for change. However, the research cautions against undue optimism, as many students reverted to old patterns of thought and behaviour after the intervention. The EAR cycle closes with suggestions for developing better pedagogies to reach through to these students.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)18-39
Number of pages22
JournalEnvironmental Education Research
Volume28
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 6 Jan 2022

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