Australian secondary students' views about global warming: beliefs about actions and willingness to act
Boyes, E, Skamp, KR & Stanisstreet, M 2009, 'Australian secondary students' views about global warming: beliefs about actions and willingness to act', Research in Science Education, vol. 39, pp. 661-680.
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A 44-item questionnaire was constructed to determine secondary students’ views about how useful various specific actions might be at reducing global warming, their willingness to undertake the various actions, and the extent to which these two might be linked. Responses (n=500) were obtained from students in years 7 to 10 in three schools in NSW, Australia. For some pro-environmental actions, the degree to which students professed a willingness to act was greater than might be expected from the extent to which they believed the action to be useful. Such actions are those that involve minimal inconvenience such as switching off un-used electrical appliances, or those that are becoming well embedded in social practice, such as recycling. For other pro-environmental actions, the degree to which students were willing to act seemed less than might be expected, given the extent to which they believed the action to be useful. Actions concerning personal transport, such as buying smaller cars or using public rather than private transport, and obtaining more electricity from nuclear power stations, fell into this category. Here, there are disincentives to acting in a pro-environmental manner relating to personal inconvenience, or concern about nuclear power. The data were also explored to determine the strength of the relationships, for each action, between students’ professed willingness to act and their belief that an action would be effective. This suggested a measure of the potential effectiveness of education about that action. For some actions, this relationship was weak; in such cases, altering belief about the usefulness of the action might not be expected to produce major changes in behaviour. Issues concerning public transport were of this type; clearly, for issues such as these, other approaches and/or inducements may be needed to persuade people to adopt pro-environmental behaviour patterns. For other actions the relationship was stronger, so that in these areas environmental education could well be effective, especially if a large proportion of the population are not already willing to undertake that action.