Environmental Literacy and Distance Learning: A Window to the Future of Education in Ontario
White, Lawrence A.
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Increasingly, scholars claim that formal education fails to provide for either the current or future needs of our society and, because of this, the field of education finds itself is at a crossroads. During the last two centuries, it has evolved into a knot of specialized and compartmentalized pedagogies that maintain a respectful distance from one another, often competing for significance in a world of economic globalization. The gap emerging between curriculum delivery and social need is of significance in this thesis. It has been argued that education reinforces unsustainability and that the missing components in today’s curricula can be addressed through a focus on and inclusion of environmental and sustainability education principles. Providing opportunities for learners to engage in critical thinking, self-reflection, open discourse and real world problem solving reinforces the necessity of an interdisciplinary approach in today’s society. It is necessary to problematize the compartmentalization created by years of specialization. This thesis reports on the environmental knowledge, attitudes and behaviour findings of the first Ontario Environmental Literacy Audit. The Audit affirms the importance that Ontarians place on their environment, and it simultaneously identifies the need for changes within our system of education if we are to produce environmentally literate citizens. The Audit reinforces the need for educational paradigm change and, emerging from this reality, distance education is identified as a viable method for the field of education to progress and retain its relevance – both as a necessary social institution and as a means by which to do so more sustainably. This thesis recommends the use of a model that incorporates the values of sustainable learning with the practices of distance education in content research, course development and instructional design. A series of recommendations for stakeholder action is also presented.