Interdisciplinary approaches to environmental education: Two case studies in China

Prof. Xu Huiying

Philosophy and sociology college Beijing Normal University

Abstract

Since the 70s began environmental education, has made big development and is going into to stage of environmental education for sustainability now. China’s environmental education also has changed all the time since the 80s. It formed the models of infusing education and permeating education through both learning Western experiences and combining China’s actual education status. But along with the rising of sustainable development in China, China’s environmental education needs to break the limitation of the models of infusing education and permeating education and develop a new model of interdisciplinary teacher cooperation, which embodies the idea of sustainable development. This dissertation will mainly use the method of action research and the data of the field survey to try to explain teachers’ psychological obstacles to participating in interdisciplinary teacher cooperation; the measures of overcoming teachers’ psychological obstacles; summarizing elementary experiences of practicing interdisciplinary teacher cooperation through action and research.

Biography

Xu Huiying: female, born on Sep 24, 1948; Chinese, association professor. I graduated from Beijing Normal University in 1976. I was awarded the degree of Master of Science at South Bank University in London in July 2003. I have taught Moral Education, TeachingTheory, and Environmental Ethics at Beijing Normal University from Sep. 1976 to now.

 

The main research topics (national and international).

“The target of the ability educating of the middle school’s student – a political lesson “.Nation Education Department”7 5″ item 1986 ―1990

“The teacher training manual of sustainable development”. World nature foundation provides the funds from 1997 ― 2000.

Introduction

The term “environmental education” has been in common use in educational circles for several decades. In 1979 the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) held an “International Working Meeting on Environmental Education in the School Curriculum at the Foresta Institute, Carson City, Nevada, USA. There, an influential and what might be described as the ‘classic’ definition of environmental education was formulated and adopted: Environmental education is the process of recognizing values and clarifying concepts in order to develop skills and attitudes necessary to understand and appreciate the inter-relatedness among man, his culture, and his biophysical surroundings. Environmental education also entails practice in decision-making and self-formulation of a code of behavior about issues concerning environmental quality (IUCN, 1970).

 

Environmental education is a relatively young, dynamic, and immensely complex field to study and interpret. So teaching and learning are complex issues. In order to bring about the aims of environmental education above-mentioned, environmental educators have been engaged in pursuing and exploring it continually. Especially in Britain, environmental educators have been keeping in step with the environmental consciousness of international society and making plenty of explorations on how to carry on environmental education.

 

In the early 1980s, through some practice, British educators summed up “As an educational approach it (environmental education) can permeate a range of disciplines, both traditional and new, as well as form the mainspring of many integrated courses”(Palmer, J.A.1998, p9) namely permeating education. The permeating education is the model of environmental education that the teacher educates students through using content connecting environmental education in different disciplines. It mainly is that the teacher educates students in a discipline alone.

 

In the 1990s, environmental education shifted its focus to sustainability. For example, in the 1990s environmental education as a cross-curricular theme was adopted into the National Curriculum in Britain. Many schools practiced the model of interdisciplinary teacher cooperation. Interdisciplinary teacher cooperation means that teachers of different disciplines can work together, planning courses, and organizing team-teaching activities, where the subjects are interactive and interdependent.

 

Most significantly, Agenda 21 of the Summit, called for the re-orientation of environmental education towards sustainability. A proposal is made that: Governments should strive to update or prepare strategies aimed at integrating environment and development as a cross-cutting issue into education at all levels within the next three years. (UNCED Agenda 21, 1992).

 

From that time Environmental education for sustainability began to be developed. It uses holism as its philosophical basis. So it is based on the premise that environmental and developmental problems are not solely caused by physical and biological factors, but that an understanding of the parts played by aesthetic, social, economic, political, historical, and cultural elements is required (UNESCO, 1992). Environmental education for sustainability needs to draw from all disciplines if it wants to achieve its goal. Its aim is to change the behavior of students, not only in their present roles in society but even more so in their future roles as adults (Schemer, A. 1994).

 

Environmental education of interdisciplinary teacher cooperation can embody the characteristics of integration and holistic. Because of the environmental problem in actual life bring from various fields. The teacher guides students to find and resolve environmental issues by aestheticsocial, economicpoliticalhistorical, and cultural e.g. discipline. Therefore environmental education of interdisciplinary teacher cooperation embodies the idea of environmental education for sustainability. As a result, environmental education for sustainability contributes to the education of the ‘whole person. (Tilbury, D. 1995, p 200) According to the spirit of Agenda 21, environmental education should go into this stage of interdisciplinary teacher cooperation.

 

Since 1992 Western and British environmental education had more development in the interdisciplinary approach. Especially there are many successful models of interdisciplinary environmental education in the UK. For example, at the beginning of the 90 age in the UK environmental education was incorporated into a number of curriculum areas. They put environmental education and development education together and created some models of cooperation of interdisciplinary teachers.  Ingrid Abrahams-Lyncook introduced four models in “Development Education in a UK Secondary School: A Cross-Curricular Approach”. The co-ordinators model is a model among them. Named co-ordinators model, co –ordinators take responsibility for a particular theme based on teacher specialism (Ingrid, A. 1994 p178a). The school has a teaching team, composed of specialists from the natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities, which are led by a teacher coordinator. School teams discussed and agreed on the project issue to be developed in its particular location (Palmer, J.A.1998, p160). The environmental and ethical knowledge, new values, attitudes, skills, and behavior of students will be empowered through the guiding cooperation of interdisciplinary teachers.

 

The beginning of environmental education is late in China. The teacher’s use of infusing education improved the status of environmental education in the 80s. Since Agenda 21, China’s environmental education has made more progress, especially the project Environmental Education Initiative (EEI) jointly sponsored by The World Wide Fun (WWF) for Nature–China Program Office, the British Petroleum Company (BP) and the Chinese State Education Ministry being held in 1997, China’s environmental education in formal schools has entered a new a stage. Chinese teachers have learned from British, American, and Australian experts about the concept of environmental education, the relation both environmental education and developmental education, and the methods, and skills of environmental education. The permeating model of environmental education began to be used in many schools. However, due to Chinese teachers lacking experience in interdisciplinary teacher cooperation, this model of environmental education has been not used in schools until 2001year in China.

 

In the 2001 year, the project “Young Citizens’ Initiative for Water” (YCIFW) was sponsored by Holland’s group (Netherlandish NOVIB). This is an item of utilizing realistic problems to educate students. It cannot be accomplished by one discipline alone. This project, therefore, gave us an opportunity to organize the teachers of the different disciplines together to educate students. That is to say, this research gained the material guarantee and explored the possibilities of interdisciplinary teacher cooperation. And teachers also gained the chance of summarizing experiences of fostering students’ ability critically to address complicated issues, skills to maintain and restore the health of the watershed, civic responsibility, and a sense of stewardship towards their environment and communities.

 

How to carry out this model in China? The teacher’s passion, clear motivation, and the method of action research according to educational conditions of schools in China is the sticking point in carrying out interdisciplinary teacher cooperation. Emotional involvement and experience are central to sustained pro-environmental values and behavior. (Maiteny, P. T. (2002a). We must utilize these elements and promote teachers’ incentives first. They will not be voluntary to explore the experiences of the interdisciplinary teacher cooperation if their behavior is not based on inner beliefs, convictions, and a wilder interest.

 

The clear motivation must be linked with these participators’ experiences, which they have summarized; otherwise, the practice will be Utopian. So the most important factor of interdisciplinary approaches is to acquire some experiences according to their ideas’ changes and to find how to expand the idea of sustainable development based on the experiences that they previously process. Hence, this only new experience that is suited for Chinese teachers can last in the long term. The experiences of interdisciplinary teacher cooperation can’t break away China’s educational condition and traditional culture.

 

Although western approaches have been successful in their society, we cannot completely copy them, because the context of China is greatly different from that of the west. We should find a way to fit the development of environmental education in China. In the west, it can be carried out from bottom to top. This means it was sponsored by grass-roots teachers at first and following that, in some countries, such as in England, it has been brought into the National Curriculums. So the environmental consciousness of teachers is strong. At the same time, enough time is offered for teachers to experience the whole process. Based on this, interdisciplinary teacher cooperation can be operated easily. During the whole process, teachers’ hearts are always in it. It has been combined with their inner need, interests, and beliefs. Compared to these countries, environmental education in China is in the primary stage. The contents of environmental education are permeated in different disciplines and there is no special curriculum for it. It can be said that our teachers have been paying attention to environmental problems, but they cannot understand perfectly environmental education for sustainability. Therefore interdisciplinary teacher cooperation may become an additional task for teachers. As a result, if there is not enough time to do them, they will not continue to do this experiment. It is clear that the most major thing for us is to let teachers make sense of what is environmental education for sustainability, and why we should abide by it. Even though there is not enough time, the teachers also can do it voluntarily. This research will explore these approaches based on Chinese conditions.

 

Another reason is that there are many excellent traditional cultures in people’s hearts in China. Such as Confucianism, Men Zi said

“The person and nature are coincident, for this reason, the person wants to pursue nature’s diapason.”

Men Zi

Taoism, Laozi said:

“Submitting to the nature, the person should get harmonious along with nature, and together evolve.”

Taoism, Laozi (Li Peichao, 1998)

“Buddhism thinks that the person must limit their own desire, give up the requiring of depending on nature and become the people of the good-heart.”

(Nan Huaijing, 1997)

Otherwise, Chinese Wu Xing, Yin Yang, and Fen Shui all admire and respect nature. In the methods, Maoism emphasizes using views of relation and whole to analyze and solve problems. (Mao Zedong, 1957) These thoughts are useful for expanding teachers’ experiences toward environmental education for sustainability.

 

As above-mentioned, if teachers carry out the interdisciplinary teacher cooperation there are two main challenges we must face:

Firstly, teachers who have been trained to teach a single discipline are not accustomed to interdisciplinary teacher cooperation. They have the limitation of specialized subjects and teachers’ psychological obstacles to participating in interdisciplinary teacher cooperation.

 

Secondly, teachers from different disciplines lack experience in interdisciplinary teacher cooperation.

 

These questions are challenges to teachers’ educational conceptions and cooperative ability. Teachers must change their educational conception and the cooperative and interactive ability for the sake of meeting these challenges. Combined with the project “Young Citizens’ Initiative for Water” which is an activity of interdisciplinary environmental education, this dissertation will make some exploration of the questions mentioned above, especially focusing on:

1. Understanding teachers’

psychological obstacles to participating in interdisciplinary teacher cooperation. Because “old habits are a very strong barrier” to pro-environmental behavior change. So this research first needs to understand teachers’ inner environment of “needs, interests, and patterns of response” which “reacts with the outer environment” (Chawla, 1998).

 

2. Exploring the measures of overcoming teachers’

psychological obstacles, “personal well-being is a psycho-emotional experience”(Maiteny, P. T. (2002b). Once looking for teachers’ psychological obstacles to participating in interdisciplinary teacher cooperation,  then the most important thing is to stimulate teachers’ positive emotions and motivation sequentially to achieve the status of personal well-being through inner change.

 

3. To summarize elementary experiences of how interdisciplinary teachers cooperate harmoniously through teachers’

practice and research. These experiences will contribute to promoting the development of environmental education for sustainability in China’s schools. Because the development of environmental education is proceeding step by step, this research will select data from two schools, which have participated in the project “Environmental Education Initiative” in 1997. I have coached them in the experiment of permeating education. And they have succeeded in this model of environmental education. This exploration of experiences of interdisciplinary teacher cooperation is a pioneering experience in China. This is based on the experiences and lessons permeating education. I hope these experiences do much to help promote and develop environmental education in China’s schools.

Literature review

Based on the above research topics, I briefly review some related literature, especially about the models of environmental education, and the developmental status of environmental education in China.

 

1. An Evolving Environmental Education in Globe

Development of environmental education

Since environmental education was first introduced into the school curricula it has struggled to establish its own identity. A historical review reveals how up the 1970s environmental education was not accepted as a concept in its own right but instead was dispersed in the diversity of disciplines that use the environment as a vehicle for teaching.

 

In the 1970s, four linked yet distinctive movements played influential roles in the development of environmental education in Britain. These were environmental studies, outdoor education, conservation, and urban studies. They promoted the introduction of an environmental dimension into the curriculum. (Cooper, 1992) The teacher mainly lectured knowledge about the environment through infusing methods.

 

The 1980s were important years for environmental education, in that it was a decade in which public environmental concern continued to heighten, giving environmental education a stronger impetus in schools. Particularly environmental education’s holistic philosophy began to take root. Environmental education is marked by moves toward an interdisciplinary dimension. (Tilbury, D. 1993)

 

In the early 1980s, the teacher used permeating education. It improved the development of environmental education. But the model of permeating environmental education in one discipline obtained some effects on environmental education, it is not environmental education of modern content(Zhu,2002). Through science, such as ecology, chemistry, physics, and biology through relation knowledge of environmental aspects, it can’t embody the integrating character of environmental education for sustainability. A striking differentiation between natural science education comparative to environmental education is that teacher merely describes environmental issues and their effect on the science curriculum, but the problem of the social root is neglected.

 

In the 1990s, environmental education shifted its focus to sustainability. Environmental education not only considers immediate environmental improvement as an actual goal but also addresses education for sustainability in the long term. This form of environmental education is concerned with the integration of the complementary disciplines of environmental and developmental education and requires reconciliation between environmental conservation and economic development. (Tilbury, D. 1995 p197)

 

In 1992 the centerpiece of the Rio de Janeiro agrees Agenda 21, a major action programmer setting out what nations should do to achieve sustainable development in the twenty-first century. It called that environmental education should develop toward sustainability. This research will use it to research and practice the model of interdisciplinary teacher cooperation.

 

Holism: the philosophical basis of environmental education for sustainability

 

Environmental education for sustainability is based on the premise of integration. Environmental problems are not solely caused by physical and biological factors, but that an understanding of many elements such as social, economic, cultural, historical, and ethical elements. It acknowledges that the investigation of any environmental issue must involve the study of the intersection and interaction of these elements. Holistic environmental education cannot be claimed as a subject in itself, rather it must be treated as a ‘whole’ concept that requires inputs from all parts of the curriculum (Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF), 1990, p.1)

 

For example, solving some environmental problems may be considering these questions like how over-consumption, waste, and misuse of resources are reduced; how poverty that sometimes causes environmental exploitation can be eliminated; how economic activity may be altered to minimize environmental deterioration; how recourses can be redirected to aid the poor or be conserved for future generations; which forms of social organization best contribute to sustainable development( Beddis & Johnson, 1998)

 

Therefore environmental education for sustainability adopts a holistic outlook to the study of environmental problems, reflected in its interdisciplinary approaches. Interdisciplinary teacher cooperation is a model of environmental education for sustainability.

2. The development of environmental education in China

 

The starting stage of environmental education and its model (1973-1983)

This period was a starting stage for environmental education in China. In August 1973, the First National Environmental Protection Conference was held, in which the “Decisions on Protecting and Improving Environment” (for trial use) was formulated. Simultaneously environmental education started to be developed. Xu Jialin said, since 1979, environmental knowledge began to be formally combined in teaching syllabus and textbooks of geography, biology, and other relevant subjects. (Xu Wang, Zhou, Zhang & He, 1996p7-8)

 

In 1981, the State Council clearly pointed out in “Resolution on Strengthening the Work of Environmental Protection in the National Economic Readjustment Period” that the knowledge of environmental sciences should be popularized in primary and middle schools. In 1983, the third conference of the committee recommended strengthening teacher training and children’s extracurricular environmental education.

 

Chinese environmental education has different models of education in different stages of the development of environmental education. Tian Qing pointed out that during this period the method of infusing environmental knowledge to students is the main model of environmental education (Tian Qing, 2001p18) But Xu Jialin thought that during this period environmental education mainly depended on the publicizing of media. Only a few teachers lectured about environmental knowledge and problem in the classes of geography and biology. The model of environmental education was not formed until that period in China. . (Xu, Wang, Zhou, Zhang & He, 1996p12-17) Xu Jialin’s view is right. On account, the model is to lie between theory and practice. (Zha, 1999) Chinese environmental education only was practiced in fewer schools and research on environmental education just started at that time. Therefore the teacher hadn’t enough practice experience. So the researcher hadn’t the systematic theories of environmental education. If lacks a lot of practice in environmental education and research, then the educational model can not be formed

 

The metaphase stage of environmental education development and its model (1983-1992)

In this period, Chinese environmental education continued to develop.

In 1987, Nation Education Ministry emphasized environmental education in the teaching plan of full-time primary and junior schools in the framed 9 compulsory education. So in this period, it often appeared as the model of infusing knowledge of environmental education through some courses.

 

The contents and skills of environmental education were infused with relevant disciplines in 1988. For example, in nine-year compulsory education, the teachers of geography, biology, physics, chemistry, Chinese, art, and some disciplines were demanded to find the contents relative to environmental education and the proper point of integration. They mainly taught the knowledge about the environment, population, and environmental protection. The student’s knowledge and skill are mainly from the teachers’ teaching. Therefore the method of infusing environmental knowledge into the different subjects students is the main model of environmental education (Xu, Wang, Zhou, Zhang & He, 1996. p12-17).

 

The model of infusing environmental education through the teacher speaking related environmental knowledge names Education about the environment. Education about the environment that is also referred to as environmental science or studies is the prevalent form of environmental education in school (Fien, 1992). It is a kind of model of early environmental education in China in the late 80s. The teachers mainly spoke about the knowledge of environmental education and problems to the students in the classroom. Although this model has promoted the development of students’ environmental knowledge, it limited students’ development of skills and values about protecting the environment. Because of this, the model is far from addressing real environmental problems outdoors. Therefore as Huckle said, it has not helped students to how societies and their environments are ‘made and remade, and how landscapes and people-environment relationships change in the process …… the dialectic between social structure and human agency. (Fien, J. 1993)

 

The great development stage of environmental education and its model (1992-present)

Education in the environment uses students’ experiences in the environment as a medium for education. This is the second model in China namely permeating education. (Tian, 2001p21). Because this kind of education with concrete course knowledge contact together, the student easily accept and comprehend them. This education is much better than the education of the infusing education. Therefore this education inspired the students’ learning enthusiasm. Obviously, the model of permeating environmental education facilitated the development of environmental education. The teacher, Xiao Aiming thought that this model was in favor of environmental education for students (Xiao, 2002). But the limit of the model of permeating environmental education is also very obvious.

 

Firstly, the model of permeating environmental education is mainly used to explain environmental issues in or outside classes. The students merely gained some knowledge about environmental problems but lacked training in aspects of ability, responsibility, and attitude. School should help students learn systemic thinking, future thinking, integrative thinking, probabilistic thinking, creative thinking, values analysis, and moral reasoning. (Lester Milbrath, 1989) Because “education is critical for promoting sustainable development and improving the capacity of people to address environment and development issues (UNESCO, 1992, para.)

 

Therefore “environmental work will need to be relevant t After 1992 China’s environmental education gradually developed the orientation of sustainable development. Particularly in the 1996 year WWF built the office –China program in Beijing. It would evolve Chinese environmental work to sustainability. A number of schools were involved in environmental education and adopted education in the environment, which is often used in Europe. Education in the environment usually takes the model of outdoor education. Nature as a kind of resource is taken into the exploitation of students. It has a strong experiential orientation, developmental awareness, and concern by encouraging personal growth through contact with nature. (Tibury, 1995p207a) The students, through increasing understanding of themselves and the world around them. It must encourage pupils to explore links between their lives and wider environmental and development concerns, by dealing with issues like consumerism and how the practices of business and industry influence their lives.”(Tilbury, 1995. p199) The model of permeating environmental education can not meet these objectives.

 

Secondly, the teacher merely explains real environmental problems in one discipline, which makes the students think linearly. But from the view of environmental education for sustainability, holism is its philosophical basis. (Li & Chen 1994) It is concerned with how people interact with their total environment and with addressing environmental problems holistically through the curriculum. The model of permeating environmental education can’t meet these problems.

 

Thirdly, from the perspective of sustainable development, the school should pay attention to the vertical development of disciplines and the horizontal integration of disciplines. It includes political education with the political ecosystem; natural history; ecosystem and biological variety diversity; ethics; morals; a new economy; health and environment etc. (Sterling, S.1996)

 

Education for the environment regards environmental improvement as an actual goal of education. Education for the environment namely involves values, activity, attitudes, and ethics. Education for the environment regards environmental improvement as an actual goal of education. Since Agenda 21 of the Summit, environmental education called environmental education for sustainability. For achieving the goal of sustainable development, three different models of environmental education: education about/in/for the environment formed in different periods should get together to be used in environmental education. Because each of these models has a distinct role. Such a strategy would ensure that the cycle of learning, with its entire corresponding objective, is completed. In practice, this will entail ensuring that learning programmers include developing environmental awareness, knowledge, values, concern, responsibility, and action, although not necessarily in that order. (Tilbury, 1995 p207b) Environmental education for sustainability is characterized by its use of ‘synthesis’ as an approach to the study of environment and development problems. (UNESO, 1992)

 

China’s environmental education needs to put three kinds of models together to use in environmental education. Because the model of permeating limits itself to promoting understanding, appreciation, and concern, environmental education for sustainability goes beyond this to develop a sense of responsibility and active participation of pupils in the resolution of environmental problems. It adopts a holistic outlook to the study of environmental problems, reflected in its global and interdisciplinary approach. (Tilbury, 1995 p207c) The goal of environmental education for sustainability foster students’ ability to integrate thinking, and that doesn’t let students think about environmental problems dissevered by different disciplines. The teachers must use the view of integration to educate students. Let students put factors of society, nature, history, economy, politics, culture, and esthetics together to think problem.

 

The model of interdisciplinary teacher cooperation can embody the views of environmental education for sustainability. Its methods include integrating holistic characters. Simultaneity environmental problems in actual life are looked at as the objective of environmental education. The teachers guide students to find and resolve environmental issues through the cooperation of aesthetic, social, economic, political, historical, and cultural disciplines. Therefore environmental education of the interdisciplinary teacher cooperation is the environmental education for sustainability.

 

The research status of environmental education of the interdisciplinary teacher cooperation

In the west, some countries have paid attention to this problem. For example, in the 1990s the Foundation of Educational Study in England advanced interdisciplinary teacher cooperation guidance. The turn of the decade saw positive plans for the inclusion of environmental education as an officially recognized cross-curricular theme of the National Curriculum for Schools in England. It was one of the original five themes to be documented, alongside health, education for citizenship careers education guidance and economic and industrial understanding. Themes were to be regarded not as an appendage to be ‘tacked on ‘ to the Curriculum’s core and foundation subjects, but as a central element of the curriculum as a whole, having progression and continuity like all other subject areas. By definition, they are cross-curricular and thus can feature in or arise out of a number of other areas of the curriculum. (Palmer, J.A. 1998 p18)

 

In 1994, the Norwegian-Latvian project on Environmental Education in Latvia: The Integration of Environmental Education Into School Subjects Developing, a Multidisciplinary Team Project Method introduced, there were 16 primary and junior high schools in the different regions of Norway Latvia having established the research activities and implementation of the interdisciplinary teacher cooperation guiding. Within them, staffs focus on inter-disciplinary project-orientated teaching relating to environmental education. (Palmer, J. A. 1998 p159)

 

Interdisciplinary teacher cooperation was also referred to in Hong Kong’s research. They thought that environmental education should be included in the master curricula in the future. These programmers offer elective courses in environmental education that adopt cross-curricular perspectives. (Palmer, J. A. 1998 p192) This literature having been learned refer to primary experience about interdisciplinary teacher cooperation. There were no experiences about teachers’ psychological understanding of participating in interdisciplinary teacher cooperation before using this model; how to overcome teachers’ psychological obstacles; or how to cooperate to guide students in the literature. This dissertation will research three problems.

3. The two influences of environmental education and methods in China

 

The force of international environmental educators and Chinese environmental NGOs and methods

China’s environmental education is improved by two kinds of influences. One is the support of international organizations and the experiences of environmental educators from abroad and at home. A certain number of schools are participating in environmental education projects sponsored or financially supported by various kinds of international organizations like the WWF supported the project Environmental Educations’ Initiative for China (EEI). Other international environmental education projects include the trial utilization of the Beautiful World of the Plant, a series of teaching materials for rural schools in Asian and Pacific Areas, to Enhance Environmental Education in China by developing teaching resources with interactive teaching methods which are financially supported by the United Nations Development Programmer (UNDP), and similar projects sponsored by other organizations like the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) (Ren & Liu, 1998; Wu, 1999). Also, there are environmental education projects sponsored by Chinese environmental NGOs like the “Friend of Nature” and “the Hand in Hand Earth Village”. “The Friend of Nature” was established in 1994, and has about 600 members. The tenet of “the Friend of Nature” is to serve the environmental education of the public and put suggestions about environmental problems to the government. “The Hand in Hand Earth Village” was established in 1996, and its tenet is to serve the commonweal activities of environmental education. It promotes the sense of the public taking part in protecting the environment through public media and various social activities. Both of them have close connections to and have learned a lot from German environmental education, and their impacts on schools were limited since they were usually engaged in extra-curriculum activities (Shou & Shou, 2000). The method, mostly developed through fieldwork, has a strong experiential orientation, developing environmental awareness and concern through contact with nature.

 

The force of international environmental educators and Chinese environmental NGOs all don’t use and research the model of interdisciplinary teacher cooperation.

 

The influence of the National Bureau of Environmental Conservation and Education Ministry and methods

The other force promoting environmental education in China is the National Bureau of Environmental Conservation and the Nation Education Ministry. They mainly evolved environmental education in primary and middle schools. In 1996 the Bureau issued a guideline for environmental education, in which it advocated the ‘Green School’ Activity across China. A series of indicators were developed in the activity for decisions on whether a school can be called a ‘Green School’. The indicators were similar to those applied by the above projects. Based on those indicators, schools tried to summarize environmental education achievement as follows (Jiao & Zeng, 2001):

 

★ The school leaders stressed environmental education.

★ Specific work plans were made for implementing environmental education.

★ Objectives, contents, and teaching methods of environmental education were practiced through teachers.

★ Regular environmental education activities were organized outside the official classes.

★ Environmental conservation actions in the community were encouraged and organized.

★ Experts were invited to give lectures and communicate with teachers and pupils.

★ Various kinds of resources were provided for environmental education.

★ The campuses were thoroughly greened. (Planting many trees and green grass)

★ A green culture was formed in the school. (The culture of environmental education)

★ Teacher’s and pupils’ initiative and creativity in environment conservation were encouraged.

★ Specific fund for developing environmental education was provided and guaranteed.

 

Obviously, all the above indicators did not stress the interdisciplinary teacher cooperation in environmental education in schools. But teachers have a greater potential than outside for promoting change because they know their own situation, its dynamics, and the need for improvement (Pace, 1994) In comparison with the international understanding of environmental education, the role of teachers in environmental education was underestimated. This dissertation will particularly research teachers’ potential ability in the interdisciplinary cooperation of environmental education.

4. The environmental thoughts among traditional cultures and philosophy methods in China

Chinese civilization came to a special agricultural environment. So agricultural civilization is as the basic mode for a long time. (Dai, 1989) Ten thousand years ago China entered the agricultural ages, people got lots of knowledge of reasonable using resources for a long time. For example, while chopping trees people could chop small trees; while cutting grass, people could not cut small grass; while fishing, people could not catch the fingerling; while hunting, people need to let pass the young and small animals; while fowling people could not destroy the bird’s eggs. These ways of doing are for existing and development of various species. These rules were in the consciousness of people from old. The ecosystem intelligence of these excellences is an important thought that Chinese protected environment. (Pei, Lin & Lu 2002) Taoism also said, “The person does not act to nature and does submit to nature” (Zhong, 1995)

 

Above these thoughts still affects people, this is in favor of promoting teachers’ environmental consciences. But just as similar to the west, there is beeline’s thinking in the Chinese culture, namely “people think that the increase of wealth can change the person’s living quantity, bring to people welfare and happiness.”(Laszlo, E.2001) This impacted people’s behavior in the environment. For example, people destroyed resources and the environment for the sake of their own happiness. So let the teacher understand the truth.

 

Chinese Ying Yang and Ba Gua were provided with some mystical thoughts. But they have many dialectic ideas. For example, Ba Gua represents that the universe has consisted of the sky, ground, thunder, breeze, water, mountain, wetland, and sky and ground among eight kinds of nature that bring everything on earth. It affects mankind’s life. Ba Gua, therefore, claims to use the standpoints of contact, variety, and development to resolve the problem (Zhu, Wang & Zheng 2000). If this kind of dialectical method of traditional culture applies in environmental education, then it will be a benefit for the teachers to open disciplinary cooperation.

 

5. The experiences of interdisciplinary teacher cooperation

There are many experiences in the management structures of interdisciplinary environmental education in some west secondary schools. For example, Ingrid Abrahams-Lyncook outlined a second school’s 4 models of interdisciplinary cooperation in the UK. (Ingrid, A.L, 1994. p178b)

  • 1. Single-leader model, usually Technical and Vocational Education co-ordinator, who acted as a promotional agent, often introducing one theme at a time.
  • 2. Single-leader model, usually a deputy head, where a host of themes are timetabled at the beginning of the year and are then promoted, developed, and evaluated by the deputy.
  • 3. Named co-ordinators model, usually they take responsibility for a particular theme based on teacher specialism.
  • 4. Working parties model, is usually set up for each theme by individuals who state a particular interest in that particular theme.

 

To practice this, we need to study the experiences of interdisciplinary approaches to environmental education in England, but we should not copy all the experiences of 4models. In China, environmental education has only been regarded as an important subject by the Chinese Nation Education Ministry not long ago. And the guiding ideology of environmental education emphasized permeating education in different disciplines. The experimentation of interdisciplinary teacher cooperation is only done the first time. As a result, if there is not enough time to do them, they will not continue to do this experiment. It is clear that the most major thing for us is to experiment with a model, then other models gradually.

 

Therefore, according to Chinese reality, we use the Named coordinators model as actual. Through practicing find ways and summarize experiences of interdisciplinary teacher cooperation to fit in with environmental education of normal education in our country. This dissertation will explore the experiences of the co-ordinators model and how it to be used in china.

 

Research Strategy and Methods

1. Research methods

This research will use 5 kinds of research methods. It includes literature research, theory research, multiple case research, survey research, and action research.

 

Literature research

Literature research is an important step in science research and provides research’s foundation. It analyzes and judges research problems by referring to literature, and collecting information from relative fields. (Pei, 1995. p56) In order to look for the exact research point, the researcher needs to know the history of environmental education and the development of the model of environmental education in the world and China through literature research. Literature research shows:

 

The world’s environmental education has developed “about”“in”“for” models of environmental education implementation in schools. Agenda 21 pointed out: that environmental education towards sustainability and called nations should aim at integrating environment and development as a cross-cutting issue into education at all levels. After that time emerged environmental education for sustainability, namely putting “about”, “in”, and “for” models of environmental education together. The model of interdisciplinary teacher cooperation embodies the character of sustainability. It is in favor of fostering the idea of civic responsibility and a sense of stewardship, a sense of participation in society 、 capacity of shifting society of the students. In China, environmental education is in the “about” and“in” phases. Environmental education in school was mainly permeated by a different discipline. The model of permeating environmental education can’t achieve the goal of sustainable development. Based on the concept of environmental education for sustainability, this research is focused to explore China’s model of interdisciplinary teacher cooperation in environmental education.

 

Theory research

Theory research uses rigorous theories to analyze and explains phenomena and process of thing. (Pei, 1995. p102) This research must depend on the rationale of environmental education and philosophy. It needs to find these theories being used throughout research, and make use of it. The rationales of environmental education for sustainability and philosophic holism are the core of the theory of this research. The goal of environmental education for sustainability is to increase the student’s understanding of themselves and the world around them, encourage students to explore links between their personal lives and wider environmental and development concerns, and promote a critical spirit, ethical awareness, and sense of responsibility by dealing with issues influence their lives. Holism is regarded as the philosophical basis of environmental education for the environment. The cooperation guiding of interdisciplinary teacher team needs to use the view of philosophical holism. This research is analyzed in a holistic way.

 

Multiple cases research

This research is designed as two individual cases with the purpose of exploring and summarizing the experience. It can be categorized as multiple case research. It is for the purpose of gathering a ‘sample’ of cases so that generalizations about some populations might make. (Robson, C.1993. p161a) With the flexibility in design and execution, this multiple case studies strategy is appropriate for gaining experience in the cooperation guiding of interdisciplinary teacher team. Because of multiple case studies was a commonly used strategy by researchers in the world, especially for the purpose of gathering a ‘sample’ of cases so that generalization to some population might be made by exploring and describing the material, personal, and institutional changes, as well as the mechanism of changes in and for the environment. (Robson, C. 1993 p161b)

 

The research on interdisciplinary teacher cooperation in environmental education is based on two primary schools’ experiments. They are piloting a three-year project of the Environmental Educators’ Initiative (EEI) since 1997. One is Miyun primary school. It is a country school. The school sits near Miyun reservoir. There are 1005 pupils and 87 staff in Miyun primary school. The teachers and pupils work surrounding the problems of protecting Miyun reservoir’s water.

 

Another is Xiaoyou primary school. There are 197pipules and 22 staff in school. Xiaoyou primary school sits near the famous Lake Houhai. Beijing’s watershed dates back hundreds of years, are two rings of moats in the city center. The first is called Gold Water River, which surrounds the famous Forbidden City, the former imperial palace. The second ring is the old city moat, part of which was engineered to become an underground river in the 1950s-1960s. The two moats are connected to three famous lakes, Houhai, Beihai, and Zhong Nanhai. There are many old buildings, Beijing’s characteristic residential side streets, and preserved Hutongs. They are Beijing’s vibrant traditional culture. The moats are connected with several large reservoirs outside of the city through the canal. The largest reservoir is the Miyun reservoir. Xiaoyou primary school utilizes these resources to carry out environmental education for pupils.

 

The two schools created some successful methods in EEI, such as innovative teaching and learning methods, inquiring learning, permeating teaching, and so on. These experiences are potent factors for interdisciplinary teacher cooperation. But it may impact new experiments and permeate teaching particularly. Therefore before experimenting, it is necessary to train teachers in rationale and knowledge and skill of environmental education for sustainability.

 

Survey research

Survey research that utilizes the methods of observation, list, questionnaire, visitation, case, and examination to collect information about the research’s object, then to analyze actuality and put forward action’s suggestion under the guiding of these theories

 

Survey research is used in a variety of ways. It includes the study of actuality and the relationship between confirming and interpreting social variables and mental variables.  It is mainly used in the collection of standardized information from a specific population. (William, W. 2000) The research of interdisciplinary teacher cooperation needs to depend on a lot of information about interdisciplinary teacher cooperation through questionnaires and interviews. The multiple case studies need attention to matters of design, and data collection, therefore the survey needs to collect information on factors impacting interdisciplinary teacher cooperation. This research was used for reference ‘Environment and Development: A Cross-curricular Project in a Swedish School’ (Margareth, T. 1994) and design a variety factors’ framework of interdisciplinary teacher cooperation (figure 1)

External factorsCommunity factorsSchool factorsTeacher team factorsStudent factors
Educational AdministrationSupporting system ManagementMain rationaleAttending ardor
Expert guiding…Resident’s senseFun using systemAttitude ,skill, interactiveKnowledge level
Management…Date establishingCooperating spiritAbility degree…

Figure 1 variety factors’ framework of interdisciplinary teacher cooperation

Action Research

Action research is a kind of applied research. It has gained popularity in the education field. It is a method to be used in helping school decision-making through the work of teachers and officials. Action research is a process of theorizing and testing our own, as well as other people’s, ideas and theories in practice. Four elements characterize action research: ethical commitment, the cycle of reflective practice, public character, and collaboration (Arhar, J. M., Holly, M. L., Kasten, W. C., 2001). The researcher is motivated by a concern for examining the social consequences of teaching practice. Action research can begin anywhere in the cycle of action, observation, and reflection one part of the cycle can lead to any other. The process itself is educational. Action research can’t depart from other people’s cooperation so it must be shared with others and collaboration.

 

A certain meaning, this dissertation mainly depends on action research to explore the model of interdisciplinary teacher cooperation in China Firstly, this dissertation: “Interdisciplinary approaches to environmental education: two case studies in China” depends on the practice of the project of ‘Young Citizens’ Initiative for Water’. (YCIFW)

 

The project’s fund is provided by the Netherlandish NOVIB organization. This project of the leadership institute is composed of the World Wide Fund for Nature(WWF)、Beijing Normal University(BNU) and Peoples Education Publishing Press(PEP). Their responsibilities are:

 

WWF:  taking charge of project management、technique support and overall coordination.

 

PEP:  taking charge of drumbeating and exploring educational materials、networking.

 

BNU:  taking charge of organizing and guiding 8 schools’ activities, promoting innovative teaching and learning approaches, and so on. The researcher is a member of BNU and takes on guiding experiments of interdisciplinary teacher cooperation of two schools among 8 schools.

 

Secondly, this research will get the theory of environmental education and action of protecting Beijing’s water environment together. It embodies action research’s character. For example, this research selected Beijing’s water as a focal point to enhance the method of environmental education. It is an actual and valuable problem. Because Beijing lacks water and some water has been polluted recently, it’s a problem concern and discussed by citizens universally. The teachers and students analyze and solve the problem of water pollution with the community. So this research shows action researches characterize: ethical commitment, the cycle of reflective practice, public character, and collaboration. The teachers as well as are given the opportunities to think about their work, teachers have a greater potential than an outsider for promoting change because they know their own situation, its dynamics, and the need for improvement (Rudd, 1978). This way of thinking is at the heart of action research (Pace, P. 1994).

 

Thirdly, this research used the theory of environmental education and practice experiences of environmental education to design “Table 1 variety factors’ framework of interdisciplinary teacher cooperation” and “Figure 1 Factors influencing the processes of interdisciplinary teacher cooperation”. Otherwise, the problems of survey and interview also were from the experiences of two pilot schools and references of the western schools. So action research is very important in this research.

2. Research Strategy

Understanding factors influencing the processes of interdisciplinary teacher cooperation

Teachers are transformative intellectuals. (John Huckle, 1996) It is commonly accepted that the orientation of environmental education is towards social changes and changes in education. Due to its orientation changes, environmental education must be considered a major innovation.

The factors influencing the innovation process and its effects might shed light on the impacts of forces within or outside of school in the implementation of interdisciplinary teacher cooperation. Such innovation process was seen as the sum of at least three very different processes, adoption, implementation, and institutionalization. (Schermer,1994) According to Schermer’s thought, the factors influencing each process were summarized by the researcher as follows

 

Table 1 Factors influencing the processes of interdisciplinary teacher cooperation

On AdoptionOn ImplementationOn Institutionalization
▲Clear and definite cooperation plan▲ Predominant discipline match with hypotaxis discipline effectively▲ Sustainability of special funds and support
▲ The progress plan of the establishment cooperation▲ Mutual exchanges news▲ Stability interdisciplinary teacher team
▲ Understand and definite in the mission of the different development stage.▲ Different standpoints’ exchanges among disciplines▲ Availability of rewards
▲ Sufficient cooperation in data, method▲ Discussing students’ reflection▲ Put in school’s educational reform schedule
▲ Teachers’ holistic, critical, integrating spirit▲ Experts’ guide on time▲ Competition of new innovations
▲ Honest /apathy/opposition advocacy from administrators▲ Community reflecting the activities’ result on time▲ Good valuation system
▲ Students’ attitude ▲ Different disciplines mutual complement for knowledge, ability▲ Giving with time to guarantee teachers’ the cooperation research
▲ Community pressure / support/apathy/opposition▲ The students participation in the activities actively▲ Establishing the file of cooperation research
▲ Nation’s education policy▲ Sympathy from administrators and colleagues
▲ Parents’ pressure/ support/apathy/opposition

Due to factors often changing, researchers should pay attention to these factors and deal with the problems raised in the processes of interdisciplinary teaching.

Obtaining data from variety of aspects

Good cooperation guiding of interdisciplinary teacher team should be environmental education for sustainability which means that it should embody holistic、integrating、critical、 innovating characters. To describe such characters, multiple methods will be adopted to collect information. This research will explore data on three problems: teachers’ psychological obstacles to participating in interdisciplinary teacher cooperation; the measures of overcoming teachers’ psychological obstacles; summarizing elementary experiences of practicing interdisciplinary teacher cooperation through action and research. They will be investigated from different aspects.

 

1. The documents of the interdisciplinary teacher team relating to this project will be analyzed including guiding thoughts, management, cooperation plans、teachers’ cooperation activities summaries、environmental education designs, and appraisal reports of different disciplinary teachers.

 

2. Seeing the community’s water area change and establishing the measures to protect the environment by the guiding of interdisciplinary teacher cooperation.

 

3. To observe the samples of students’ activities in protecting water by the guiding of interdisciplinary teacher cooperation and to assess the methods of teachers’ cooperation in different disciplines.

 

4. Two open-ended questionnaires will be developed to explore the participants’ perceived effects and their expectations of the projects including the principal, teachers, pupils, other staff, and community people.

 

5. Several semi-structured individual interviews and a group interview (with teachers) will be adopted to explore deeply effects of the interdisciplinary teacher cooperation and their suggestions about one in the future.

 

The quantitative and qualitative data collected with such multiple methods will be analyzed with the assistance of a computer. During the research process, the researcher needs to discuss survey analysis with two schools’ teachers so that improve this research in good time.

 

As a part-time trainer, I guided two schools. During these years, I have been studying their written policies, observing classroom and outside environmental education activities, and talking with some staff and students. With such exciting experiences, I have got some ideas about the experiment of interdisciplinary teacher cooperation, which will shed light on the items in the experimentation plan’s design and the questionnaires and interview topics.

Finding

 

To understand the psychology of teachers who participate the interdisciplinary approaches. The experiment of interdisciplinary teacher cooperation is prepared to test in two primary schools, which have achieved success in permeating environmental education. It is Miyun School and Xiaoyou School. Researchers have known about teachers’ mentation of this experiment through interviewing and field surveying. They noticed that the enthusiasm of teachers is affected by their inner motivation. And the inner motivation is affected by some factors, such as the understanding level of teachers of environmental education, if there are beneficial factors to each other in teachers’ cooperation, if the teachers’ cooperation will affect their own job and if they understand the cooperative methods. Detailed problems are:

 

1. Cannot fully understand why teachers should cooperate in different disciplinary.

Through the questionnaires, we can see that about 83 percent of teachers in the two schools can not fully understand why teachers should cooperate in different disciplinary.

 

Discussant 1: Permeating environmental education is on the stage of experiment and accumulating experience. We were familiar with this method not long ago. I cannot understand why we should use the model of interdisciplinary teacher cooperation now. I think permeating environmental education is enough for primary school.

 

Discussant 2: Students will not voluntarily take part in the activities of environmental protection if teachers cannot explain the environmental knowledge clearly to students. The permeating education is good to link with environmental knowledge in teaching practice. I cannot understand why we should use the model of interdisciplinary teacher cooperation.

 

From the interviews, we can find out that teachers’ consciousness is in the “about” model which is to explain the environmental issues. They cannot understand sustainable environmental education and need to use sustainable and holistic ideas to help students know environmental questions. As a leading cadre in the National Ministry of Education says, these teachers do not understand that the first thing of environmental education is to enhance students’ environmental consciousness of sustainable development. We should pursue not knowledge but a moral conception and a sense of responsibility to the environment.  (Zhoujing, 2002)

 

If teachers have no clear consciousness of the relationship between the idea of sustainable development and the model of interdisciplinary teacher cooperation, they will have no clear motivation for the model and will not have the enthusiasm to participate in this model’s practice. So, it is essential for us to take some training for the teacher about the idea and skills of sustainable environmental education.

 

2. Doubting about if it is beneficial for teachers who take part in the activities

Some teachers think environmental education in school needs different models, and the model of interdisciplinary approaches may be useful for this. However, they worry about if this model is beneficial for teachers.

 

Discussant 1I need a sociology teacher’s help when I organize students to look into the pollution of a community soy plant. But I have to give up this thought when I thought it would occupy his teaching time if let him help me.

 

Discussant2: It is convenient to permeate environmental education into a single subject. And it will take too much time to cooperate with other teachers to teach students. If I take some time to cooperate with others, but I gain nothing, I maybe don’t participate in this model’s practice.

 

Discussant3: If someone asks me to help him, I should help him. But I will have more enthusiasm if I can take advantage of the activities.

 

As above mentioned, teachers doubt if they can or can’t benefit from the cooperation. Those who need others’ help think helper doesn’t take advantage of his help, so give up the intention of asking for others’ help. At the same time, if a teacher is asked to help others, he also considers if this behavior will help his own subject teaching. Considering this actual mentality, it is essential for us to let teachers know the interdisciplinary approaches model is beneficial for them before they carry out this model. That is to say, it is not the higher authority that force teachers to get together to go on this model. It should be that teachers are voluntary to cooperate with others due to take advantage of the model.

 

3. Time also affects the teachers’ enthusiasm for participating the interdisciplinary teacher cooperation

According to the surveys and interviews, we can see that the teachers’ enthusiasm for compulsory subjects, such as math, Chinese, and English, is different from the enthusiasm of optional objects teachers, such as natural, historical and social. There is 93 percent of compulsory subjects teachers in this survey worry about this model will occupy their time. So they don’t like to participate in this experiment considering the proportion of students entering higher school. On the other hand, 87 percent of optional objects teachers want to take part in this experiment because they think environmental education is combined with their own subject and there is no pressure on the proportion of students entering higher school.

 

Discussant1: I am a math teacher and I want to participate in all kinds of environmental education activities. If we do not educate students to protect the environment, we are sorry for our descendants. However, the first thing for us is to finish the teaching task, which is set by the educational system. I have to guarantee students entering higher school. If I participate in interdisciplinary teacher cooperation, it will occupy much teaching time. And it is possible to affect students’ grades. Maybe, it will decide if I can continue to be a teacher. Leaders do not set it, so I think I will not take part in it. I agree with environmental education, but my behavior is not consistent with my idea.

 

Discussant2: I am a history teacher and this subject has no pressure on the proportion of students entering higher school. So, I like to participate in some environmental education activities. For example, I organized students to carry on an activity: “Young Citizens’ Initiative for Water ”it is very interesting. This activity is associated with the history and culture of Beijing. So, I lead students to inspect all kinds of appearances of Beijing’s history, economy, and politics. Another teacher and I together carry on these activities.

 

Considering the question of time, it is effective and feasible in China to mobilize mainly optional objects’ teachers to participate in the experiment of interdisciplinary teacher cooperation in environmental education now.

 

4The teachers’ operation of the interdisciplinary approach is blind

The two schools have been doing the experiment of permeating environmental education from 1997 to 2001. They summarized permeating methods to search the junction of a single subject and environmental education. Such as role play, discussion and tale-telling, and so on. It is the first time for them to use the model of the interdisciplinary approach. And there is no experience. However, these teachers who would like to participate in this experiment represent two kinds of attitudes.

 

Discussant 1: I like challenges. We must do it first. It is better for us to summarize methods and experience in doing the process than to only discuss.

 

Discussant 2: environmental education has been done for a long time overseas. We can use their experience for reference. We can copy their model at first. If we cannot do it well, we will do it again.

 

At first, these teachers all hope to practice this experiment of the model. The first teacher is very enthusiastic and emphasizes summarizing experience in the process. But he negatives to learn useful factors from others’ experiences. As Mao Zedong said, if we want to go through the river, the first thing is to find the boat, that is, find the method. (Mao, 1991)That is to say, practice must have both enthusiasm and methods. The second teacher hopes to copy the model of other countries. This is a blind way and ignores the reality of China.

 

In a word, if teachers hold these attitudes, this experiment maybe fails. Once failure it will also do harm to the enthusiasm of participants. Therefore, on the one hand, teachers should understand overseas experiences and on the other hand realize the reality of China before they put interdisciplinary cooperation into practice. It is necessary to design a feasible way.

To stimulate teachers’ motivation to participate in this experiment

 

According to the survey and analysis of the questions above mention, it is essential to invite the specialists and scholars of environmental education to train these teachers who participate in the experiment before they carry out the interdisciplinary teacher cooperation. The contents conclude why environmental educators must have a sustainable idea, how teachers cooperate for mutual benefit, how to organize a team, and how to design a feasible cooperative way. And they stimulate teachers’ own motivation to participate in this experiment through teachers’ discussion. Because environmental education is a voluntary behavior, if a teacher does not accept and understand it in their consciousness, he will have no enthusiasm to participate voluntarily. On October 19, 2001, we organize teachers to discuss and study these questions. As follows:

 

1. Lead teachers from old environmental consciousness to new consciousness of environmental education for sustainable development.

Napoleon Hill said, if you want to change your world, the first thing is to change yourself. If your thinking is right, you will be successful. (Napleon, H.1997) It is important to lead teachers from old environmental consciousness to new consciousness of environmental education for sustainable development in this experiment. At the same time, this leading must aim at the thinking that teachers have had. In training let teachers discuss the question of Miyun reservoir and then raise their idea to a higher level based on their experiences.

 

Miyun reservoir sits in Miyun County. Its’ surface area is 3,365,000 mu and about 10 percent of the total area of Miyun County. In Beijing, about 80perent water comes from Miyun reservoir. In order to protect water, there are about 70,000 people emigrated from Miyun Country. With the reduction of cultivated land, every person has only 0.3mu per capita land. Iron ore is abundant there. There were about 100 stops; these stops were closed in order to protect water quality. These steps affect Miyun County’s finance and a person’s living. Teachers discuss as follows:

 

Discussant1: People’s emigration and closing stops are to protect the ecosystem balance. If the government did not carry out this action, water in Beijing will be threatened. At last, it will affect national politics, economics, and a person’s living. This decision is right.

 

A lot of teachers agree with this analysis. Teachers have combined environmental questions, people’s emigration, closing stops, and so on with the sustainable development of national politics and economics.

 

Discussant2: Confucius said that people must have kindheartedness. Miyun residents have contributed to the development of Beijing’s politics, economics, and people’s lives. From the view of kindheartedness, our country, especially the Beijing government should compensate for Miyun County’s loss. Quite a number of teachers agree with this option. This idea shows the principle of equality in sustainable development.

 

Discussant3: In order to protect the environment and raise Miyun people’s living standards, we should use holistic and integrative ideas to solve these problems. So, this task is not only the task of the environmental department but also of all the departments such as political, economic, cultural, and educational.

 

The teachers’ discussion has contact with holistic and integrative questions of environmental protection. This is the highest idea for sustainable development. Based on the experiences, which teachers have had, the experts instructed the requisition of sustainable education to environmental education. They mentioned Taoism: “submitting to nature, the person should get harmonious along with nature, and together evolve.” They think this plain thinking is sustainable, because it is a natural option based on the ecology center, but not a social option based on the human center.

 

According to this, teachers understand environmental education must aim at the sustainable development of humans and society. Teachers must educate children using holistic and integrative ideas to observe and know actual problems and act. Environmental education should develop to the orientation of different subjects integrating. And teachers must let children know individual development must get together with social reform. As a result, environmental education must pursue to promote social development. In order to let children must have fair consciousness and a sense of social responsibility, teachers should lead students to use fair principles to analyze and solve problems. Let children participate in the activities.

 

The idea of sustainable development in environmental education is realized by the changes in teachers’ experience. This change will help stimulate teachers’ motivation to participate in interdisciplinary teacher cooperation. The person will work hard when he is stimulated. (Stephen, P. R. 1998) Observably teachers will participate in the interdisciplinary teacher cooperation with a positive mental attitude.

 

2. Let teachers find a platform of mutual benefit

China is developing quickly. Chinese wish to change themselves constantly to get along with the times. As a teacher, they wish to change themselves more strongly. They hope to develop their knowledge and abilities in teaching practices. They take every chance seriously which is provided by every activity. Therefore, they pay attention to interdisciplinary teacher cooperation if they can benefit from this experiment. During the training, let teachers find out that interdisciplinary cooperation is a platform of mutual benefit by summarizing their experiences of environmental education.

 

Discussant1: (a nature teacher) I only lead students to investigate the environmental problems in the soy plant. Students only know about these environmental problems through this activity. But my knowledge is poor in solving these problems caused by different aspects. At this time, if the social teachers can participate in this activity, it will remedy my scarcity in another aspect. So, interdisciplinary cooperation is beneficial for me.

 

Through discussion, teachers find out the factors of mutual benefit in interdisciplinary cooperation from their own deficiency of knowledge.

 

Discussant2: (a computer teacher) most contents of the computer course need students to exercise outside class. Other teachers often invite me to help them summarize their activities using the computer. At the same, I find students welcome computer teaching when I use these contents.

 

This teacher fined the factors of mutual benefit in interdisciplinary cooperation by helping others.

 

Discussant3: (a math teacher) for the promotion, teachers need to have some research projects. Interdisciplinary cooperation is a project of action research. If I can participate in this project, it will be an important factor for my promotion.

 

These teachers find a platform of mutual benefit in this interdisciplinary cooperation from different needs. Widening his ken satisfies the nature teacher. Enriching his teaching contents satisfies the computer teacher. And the math teacher is satisfied by acquiring an important factor to promote. These factors are the natural motivations for teachers to participate in this experiment. If we can use these factors, we can stimulate participant motivation of teachers. Therefore, mutual benefit is important to base of bases on teachers’ interdisciplinary cooperation.

 

3. Let the most enthusiastic teachers make up the interdisciplinary cooperative team.

Enthusiasm is essential for success. If there is no enthusiasm, people cannot develop their abilities. (Carnegie, 1988)  During the training, the teachers’ enthusiasm is very high when teachers found the platform of mutual benefit. These teachers make up the interdisciplinary cooperative team.

 

On Dec27, 2001, Miyun School reports their team members and the cooperative theme. This team is made up of four teachers: a social teacher, a natural teacher, an English teacher, and a Chinese teacher. The average is 24. And they are all women. The theme is the action research of protecting the ecosystem of Miyun receiver. The social teacher takes charge of this project. She is a coordinator of the team. This research plan will be carried out from October 2001 to October 2002. The contents of this research are to investigate the water quality of Miyun reservoir and analyze the relationship between water quality and community residents’ living. (Miyun School’s report, 2001)

 

Xiaoyou School reports their team members and the cooperative theme on Dec1, 2001. This team is made up of four teachers: a moral education teacher, a Chinese teacher, an art teacher, and a math teacher. The average is 31. They are three women and a man. The math teacher takes charge of this project. She is a coordinator of the team. The theme is the research on the relationship between environmental education and environmental protection in the Houhai community. This research plan will be done from October 2001 to October 2002.  The contents of this research are the relationship between humanities landscape and environmental development in the community and the promoting function of school environmental education to the environmental consciousness of community residents. (Xiaoyou School’s report, 2001)

 

The two schools have taken about one year to practice this experiment. As follows:

Team leader (Xiaoyou School): the moral education teacher coached students to survey the problem. The Chinese teacher coached students to write investigative reporting. The math teacher coached them to count data. And the art teacher helped them to show their survey conclusion in the community. (Xiaoyou Schools’ project plan 2001)

 

Team leader (Miyun School): The nature teacher and society teachers led students to investigate water resource distribution and wastewater management. The Chinese and English teachers helped students to write propagandistic reports in Chinese and English. (Miyun Schools’ project plan 2001) From the cooperative situation in the two schools, we can conclude that enthusiasm is the guarantee for interdisciplinary teacher cooperation.

Accumulating cooperative experiences from practices

 

As Lida has said, “practice is the source of knowledge, knowledge depends on practice, and one can’t be gained breaking away from practice” (Lida, 1987). The two schools carry on the experiment of interdisciplinary teacher cooperation based on the British model and China’s reality. Through their practice, this research summarizes some primary experiences from their documents, students’ activities, reports, and surveys.

 

1. Striving for support from the administrative department in the school

The educational system in China is different from that in the west. Educational administration in China is through centralism to manage all kinds of schools. The government pushes their educational ideas and policy from above to below, for example, environmental education. In China, the National Ministry of Education requests all primary and middle schools to carry on environmental education in 1992. This is a task that must be carried out in schools. Schoolmasters and management departments are responsible for carrying out this policy. Thus, although an interdisciplinary cooperative team is an activity after class, it is also a task of environmental education. According to the policy of the National Education Ministry, interdisciplinary teacher cooperation can gain the support of schoolmasters and management departments, if this team explains the essentiality of the experiment clearly. This way will contribute to interdisciplinary cooperation. Miyun School’s interdisciplinary cooperative team acquired the schoolmaster’s support on Dec. 27, 2001.

 

Schoolmaster’s option: This project can strengthen students’ consciousness of environmental protection. Experts have trained team members and they possess the research ability. The school will provide a school net, outlay, and supports for this project. (Miyun Schools’ document 2001) Xiaoyou School’s interdisciplinary cooperative team also acquired the schoolmaster’s support on Nov. 27, 2001.

 

Schoolmaster’s option: This project will foster students’ social sense of responsibility and encourage students to take part in these activities of environmental protection by environmental education. They possess the ability of organization. The school will provide time and material support for them. (Xiaoyou School’s document 2001) The two schools carry out this experiment successfully supported by the schoolmaster.

 

2. Teachers explore the experiences of interdisciplinary cooperation through action research

Once teachers have the motivation to participate in interdisciplinary cooperation, they hope to look for some experiences to refer to them. The experts introduce some operating models for teachers, such as the British model and the method of action research.

 

Teachers discussed the relationship between practice and theory. They understand practice is the headspring of recognition and the important approach to forming experiences. Because behavior is the process to check up on theories by practice and theorize our thinking. This research must combine with action research. After this discussion, they said something as follows:

 

Discussant 1: I am very excited. I am both a practitioner and a researcher of interdisciplinary cooperation. I must look at books and look for some information. I will summarize my former experiences in environmental education. Aimed at a problem, I will cooperate with other teachers to design an item.

 

Discussant 2: I think we need to summarize the experiences of interdisciplinary cooperation that we need by using the way of action research. The basic factors of the action research are observation, action, and rethinking. We can try it using this method.

 

Observation

Action                             Rethinking

The operating method of action research

 

Action research empowers teachers to develop an ideological critique enabling them to depart from read-made solutions and discover innovative ways of problem-solving (Robottom, 1987 Elliott, 1993). From the above mention, we can see that teachers are blind to operating this model before starting this experiment. But when they know the model of interdisciplinary cooperation and the method of action research, and realize they own are a practitioner and a researcher of this research, they have the enthusiasm for practice. And they have also a clear way and direction of research.

 

3Acquiring the support of experts

Interdisciplinary cooperative activities need experts, scholars, and other supporters when teachers cannot solve some professional questions. When Xiaoyou School carried on the activity of setting free fry into the river, they invite some experts to explain the relationship between fish and nature. Students write a lot of sentiments after this lecture.

 

Students 1:After this lecture, I understand if there is no fry, there is more and more floating grass. And water will be polluted. So, we set free fry into the river in order to protect Houhai water. (Liu Jiyang, 2002)

In Miyun School, teachers lead students to visit the wastewater-managing plants and invite experts to explain how to deal with wastewater and how to utilize it. This is the first time for students to see and listen to these contents.

 

Student 2 I understand if the wastewater is managed, it can be used to water flowers and recycled by plants. (Zhong Li 2002)

In the questionnaires, teachers all think experts’ help will prompt the development of interdisciplinary teacher cooperation.

 

4Mobilizing students to participate in this experiment initiatively

The interdisciplinary teacher cooperation is based on the project “Young Citizens’

Initiative for Water” (YCIFW). The aim is foster students’ analytical and observed ability and a social sense of responsibility through interdisciplinary approaches. Students participating positively will contribute to fostering Students’ environmental consciousness. Students aren’t passive to accept experts’ knowledge when they are active explorers. (Steinberg, S. R. & Kincheloe, J. L. 1998).There, students participating positively is voluntary. “Initiative is the process of individual inner growth and self-moral judgments. Piaget thought when students are in activities, they will initiatively develop their knowledge and morals.” (Xu, 2000) Thus, in students’ activities, it is the most important thing for us to mobilize students initiatively into action.

 

There are two important ways for students: “the question method”, which is based on students’ observation, and “the inquiring method”, which is based on students’ experiences that have had.

Students using “the question method ” explored some themes:

The survey on wasting water at home

The survey of sewage ditch

The survey of floating alga in the water area

 

The inquiring method uses students’ experiences that have had. This way mobilizes students’ positivity. Students explore a lot of problems through teachers’ interdisciplinary approaches. Some students write short stories. Let’s take some for instance:

 

Mosquitoes in the office

One day, I suddenly heard the music teacher complaining about why there are so many mosquitoes in May. It’s too early!  Teacher Wang said as if lost in thought: It seems that some students are cultivating mosquitoes. The musical teacher jumps out of her skin. At the beginning of April, We found some little wireworms jumping from here to there when we observed the water samples, so we put water samples and floating grass into a plastic flume to cultivate them together. After a period of time, wireworms grew up and their bodies became red. Then the things went out as above mentioned. (Yan Yuan 2002)

The taste to be a reporter

Grandpapa, will you tell me something about the city moat?” “There is nothing about it. The city moat is dirty and odorless. Do not ask me!” Then he went away. It has been so long time since I came out, but I have no gain. I think it is maybe the method by which I asked questions is wrong. I should introduce myself first, and then introduce what I do. If people can understand my aim, he is likely to answer my question. So I went up to another old man as if I have a card up my sleeve, and then I told him what I thought. The grandpa knew my aim. Then he said a lot of questions about water fervidly. I am very pleased. (Li Hongchao 2002)

 

Going into the soy plant

Today, we went to a soy plant to observe the environmental problems. The color of sewage spouted by soy plants is yellow and odorless. The chimney is exiting black smoke. Residents’ new white shirts will become gray the next day. Noises affect people to sleep. We decide to advise the soy plant to solve these problems with the community. (Zhu Xiaoqing2002)

 

From these stories above mentioned students’ interest will be stimulated by some questions which are associated with their experiences and knowledge. Their interests lead them to explore these questions positively. By exploring, students’ observing, operating, and communicating ability and social sense of responsibility will be improved. This shows teachers’ interdisciplinary cooperation will mobilize students’ interests to participate in activities.

 

5Forming different models of interdisciplinary cooperation

Teachers haven’t copied west and others’ experience and form characteristic experiences in terms of practice time, place, environment, and so on.  This is the educational soul (Li, 1998). Teachers in two schools have formed two models of interdisciplinary cooperation through their different practice.

 

Xiaoyou School forms the model of the holistic team.

 

The holistic team is an assembly line. As the following chart,

 

Building up the team→to design something cooperatively→to take on the aim and tasks→to instruct collectively→to take on the whole process→evaluation

 

After the tentative project was confirmed, teachers cooperate with others according to their needs, which may appear in the future. Every teacher clearly knows their own duty and is able to participate in the activity at the appropriate time and place. After confirming this team, all the members set down the team’s aim, duty, activity fashion, and behavior principles together. The team organizes these teachers according to their subjects, character, approach style, and age. This organization is fixed. Every member must obey the team discipline and sustain a good cooperative spirit. For instance, in the research of the main factors of a sandstorm, teachers’ cooperation comes down to the natural, social, and computer subjects and so on. These teachers are organized together. Then they set down the aim, plan of the project, and the duty of every teacher. After this, teachers will collectively guide students’ activities. During the process, each member must provide the help of his own project for students according to the fixed plan and students’ needs. When finished this activity, the entire member will evaluate the cooperation.

 

The merits of this cooperative model are that the division of labor is clear. The operation is in proper order. And it is easy to harmonize members’ relationships. The shortcoming also is clear. When a new situation comes, teachers cannot solve this problem in time because every teacher has his or fixed duty.

Miyun School forms the model of a nuclear team

A nuclear team will be confirmed according to the aim or leading direction of this project. There are about 3-5 members in this clear team. The team should set down cooperative plans, principals in advance. Along with deep interdisciplinary cooperation, the new members will need to participate in the group. Because there are some questions that those teachers who are on the nuclear team cannot solve. Thus teachers’ groups will be enlarged. As follows,

 

Nuclear team→to designs something cooperatively→to instruct collectively→to take on the whole process→remediation and feedback→to instruct collectively→evaluation

 

These new team members must obey the team’s plan and discipline. At the same time, they can advance some advice in order to improve the plans.  During this process, some teachers will leave the group because they have finished their duties. Thus, the nuclear team must arrange members based on reality. At last, all the members must take part in the evaluation.

 

The merit of this model is flexible. They can solve new problems during the process because new members will be supplied to this team. But the shortcoming of this model is very clear. Because new blood does not know the situation ahead, so sometimes they cannot cooperate with others harmoniously.

6Having communication and discussion in the cooperation

Information communication is an important condition that teams exist and develop. (Chen 1997) It is important to communicate information with others. As Mondy & Noe pointed out, in the activities, if participants can trust each other, communicate their idea with others and listen to others’ options is the core factor that will affect the cooperative effect. ( Mondy, R. M. & Noe, R. M. 1998) In the surveys and interviews, teachers at large think discussion and communication are the important way for interdisciplinary cooperation. They summarize two communication forms. One is to communicate and discuss accompanying with the teachers’ cooperation. Another is that teachers take advantage of the fixed time to discuss and solve some problems in a phrase of the activity.

 

Communicating and discussing accompanying with the teachers’ cooperation

Teachers in the two schools think communication and discussion are determined by the activity’s status at that time. The discussion is at will. The merit is that the problems can be solved quickly, and the shortcoming is that the answer is deficiency because it has not been thought carefully.

 

Having fixed time to communicate

Teachers communicate based on their preparation. The merit is that this discussion is turned over to think. So the experiences have been summarized and the way has depth, scope, and higher veracity. The shortcoming is that it will take a too long time and is not convenient.

 

7Building up the information files and the essential evaluating mechanism

The two teams of teachers have interdisciplinary cooperation from the beginning of the experiment, they collect some information consciously by letter, photographs and tape, and so on. They thought of building up the information files will help them to rethink and summarize problems in activities and it is the necessary condition to promote and develop teachers’ interdisciplinary cooperation.

 

There is no evaluation mechanism in the two schools now. However, all the teachers think the evaluation is necessary.  Evaluation is needed for every educational form for the sake of showing the effect of teaching. And teachers can rethink the questions having met and this will promote this project.

Conclusion

This dissertation tries to summarize the operating experiences of interdisciplinary teacher cooperation. The researches of literature and theory show that environmental education for sustainability puts developmental education and environmental education together as the orientation of the development of environmental education. China’s environmental education has made more development after 21 agenda. Especially that permeating model was used in schools promoted the development of environmental education. But facing environmental issues brought by polity, economy, culture, education, and environment, the permeating model merely educates the student in a single discipline, and can’t take on a role that fosters students’ knowledge, skills, attitudes, and social responsibility in the manner of integrating different disciplines to educate a student. Therefore it is a demand of developing China’s environmental education. The model of interdisciplinary teacher cooperation embodies the idea of environmental education for sustainability. Adopting the model of interdisciplinary teacher cooperation is the developmental orientation of environmental education in China’s schools.

 

However how to make this idea become the teacher’s idea, how to use operating experiences of the interdisciplinary teacher cooperation. These are sticking points to implement the model of interdisciplinary teacher cooperation.

 

“Whatever the role of curriculum outlines and guides, the final creative touch of translating the general and often vague objectives and plans into an operating curriculum depends on the capacity of teachers as curriculum makers.” (Taba, H. 1962) Hence, solving teachers’ cognition is the premise of carrying out interdisciplinary teacher cooperation. The action research and investigation research show that the participators’ motivations influence their passion for participating in the interdisciplinary teacher cooperation, however, these motivations mainly are influenced by the following problems:

 

Firstly teachers are not clear why teachers of different disciplines should cooperate in environmental education.

Secondly, some teachers doubt if participating the interdisciplinary teacher cooperation is beneficial for teachers who take part in the activities.

Thirdly on account of having not enough time, some teachers haven’t the enthusiasm of participating in interdisciplinary teacher cooperation.

Fourthly the teachers who want to participate actively are blind to the operation of interdisciplinary teacher cooperation.

 

Dialectics points out that a thing’s change and development mainly depend on an inner change thing, and outer conditions bring the role to a thing only through an inner change of thing. (Xiao, Li & Wang, 1981) It is to say, letting teachers come into being passionate about participating the interdisciplinary teacher cooperation, must depend on a change in the teacher’s inner experience, outer education and information is the only condition causing thing’s change. Hence this experiment pays attention to causing the teacher’s inner change or herself.

 

Firstly lead teachers from old environmental consciousness to new consciousness of environmental education for sustainable development through discussing themselves.

Secondly, let teachers find a platform of mutual benefit through contacting their experiences that have done.

Thirdly let the most enthusiastic teachers make up the interdisciplinary cooperative team by stimulating their motivation.

Fourthly to let teachers use action research to explore the experience of the interdisciplinary teacher cooperation through teacher mastering method of action research.

 

Teachers’ practice and research are that, by reflecting on their own practice, teachers can develop, try out and improve their teaching (Chen, 2001). So teachers’ action research empowers teachers to develop experiences in problem-solving. Through practice and reflection primarily their experiences are:

1、 Before carrying out the interdisciplinary teacher cooperation teachers need to strive for the support of the principal and administrative department in the school. It can make teachers gain the support of funds, material, time, and so on.

 

2、 Teachers explore the experiences of interdisciplinary teacher cooperation by action research. It is an accepted fact that experience development requires a synergy of teachers’ practice and research.

 

3、Teachers try for the support of experts when activities meet technical problems that teachers can’t solve. This help can make for improving the quality of interdisciplinary cooperation as well as expand students’ knowledge.

 

4、 Teachers mobilize students to participate in this experiment initiatively. Students aren’t passive explorers when they are active ones. They become responsible explorers and continue to explain problems that meet in the activities.

 

5、 According to different cooperation conditions form different models of interdisciplinary teacher cooperation, namely the nuclear team and the holistic team. Teachers build characteristic experience in terms of practice time, place, environment, and so on.  This is an educational soul.

 

6、Teachers regularly come off communication and discussion in the cooperation. They formed the model of communication accompanied by the teachers’ cooperation and the model of taking advantage of the fixed time to discuss and solve some problems in a phase of the activity. Because information communication is an important condition that the team exists and develops. Therefore, in spite of teachers are how busyness but communication and discussion is prerequisite in interdisciplinary teacher cooperation.

 

7、Teachers build up the information files and evaluate the mechanism of interdisciplinary teacher cooperation. It needs of summarizing experiences of interdisciplinary teacher cooperation deeply and scientifically.

 

Owing to this research’s time being short, this research doesn’t explore how to design detailed goals 、 procedures of interdisciplinary teacher cooperation; or the teachers how to cooperate in knowledge、skills、values. And teachers how to evaluate the results of interdisciplinary teacher cooperation.  These need to be deeper researched. Owing to this research-based in action research and utilized the project of “Young Citizens’ Initiative for Water” (YCIFW), it may have some localization. Therefore the teachers need to think about the subject matter of environmental education in their own school when the teachers use these experiences. In addition, in the research process, this research tried to explore environmental thoughts of Taoism、Buddhism、Yin Yang, and Maoism’s methods of thinking problems, and use them to research problems. There are abundant environmental thoughts in china’s traditional culture, and in later experiments, this research should do deeper research and use them. The experiences of interdisciplinary teacher cooperation are mainly from teachers’ practice and action research, which prove that teachers can become researchers in environmental education. Consequently, each teacher should have the confidence to become a researcher in environmental education.

 

To be brief this dissertation used the theory of environmental education for sustainability to research the experiences of interdisciplinary teacher cooperation. This research shows: that before practice needs to realize the problems of influencing teacher to take part in interdisciplinary teacher cooperation; teachers’ motivation of taking part in interdisciplinary teacher cooperation are inspirited by them themselves in discussing solving problems; experiences of the interdisciplinary teacher cooperation are from teachers’ action research. This research will be beneficial to promote the development of environmental education in school

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Prof. Xu Huiying

I have taught Moral Education, TeachingTheory, and Environmental Ethics at Beijing Normal University from Sep. 1976 to now.

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