COS 63-6
The role of hybrid space in the development of environmental action competence in high school students

Wednesday, August 13, 2014: 9:50 AM
Regency Blrm E, Hyatt Regency Hotel
Anne K. Stephens, Education, University of California Davis, Chico, CA

Research in environmental education suggests that the development of all of the components of environmental literacy is most likely to be achieved in situations where EE is infused (as opposed to being inserted) into the curriculum over time (Hungerford & Volk, 1980; Jacobsen, et al., 2009; Rickinson, 2001; Lieberman & Hoody, 1998). One-time field trips or short-term experiences do not provide enough opportunity for students to apply their knowledge and develop broader attitudes (Stern, Powell, & Ardoin, 2008; Smith-Sebasto & Cavern, 2006). In researching the development of environmental literacy in youth, it is critical to consider how formal, non-formal, and informal learning situations interface with one another to create an intellectual and social “hybrid” space. It is in the intersection of these learning scenarios that students can engage in dialog and activities where they can gain confidence in their knowledge and skills. How these learning experiences are incorporated into broader systems, such as in schools, influences how effective the learning will be. This study investigated the role of hybrid space in the development of environmental “action competence”, or the ability and motivation to take action toward the environment, in youth at 18 environmentally-themed California Partnership Academies (CPAs). CPAs embody a school reform model that focuses on smaller learning communities with a career theme. Using secondary source data and ethnographic methods that included participant observations and semi-structured interviews with teachers, students, and adult volunteers over a two-year period, we investigated how intellectual and physical hybrid space is created from the intersection of formal, non-formal, and informal education programs in a  high school setting.


Analysis of data was performed using NVivo Qualitative Software to examine the conditions and mechanisms necessary for creating hybrid spaces for environmental learning. Factors such as the smaller cohort of students over a 3 year period, the inclusion of an interdisciplinary project with community partners, a flexible school schedule, and regular field study were found to be key in creating the hybrid space through which students not only learned environmental concepts, but were engaged and motivated to take action about issues that concerned them. This study contributes to the need for additional research into how environmental education can be more effectively infused into formal high school programs.