Problem Statement: Increasing global population and unrestrained consumption of natural resources has resulted in increasing pollution, poor air and water quality and the extinction of animal and plant species. Today, environmental problems are experienced worldwide and threatening the continuity of human life. For the sake of human beings, environmental problems need to be solved in the near future. Solving environmental problems is only possible with citizens who are knowledgeable about environmental issues, aware of environmental problems, and motivated to work to solve these problems. Environmental education is the most effective way to educate children about these issues. Teachers are the key actors who shape children’s interest in and attitudes toward environmental issues. Thus, for environmental education researchers, it is always worth studying in-service and pre-service teachers’ environmental attitudes.
Purpose of the Study: The purpose of this study is to investigate Turkish pre-service science teachers’ attitudes toward the environment. In addition, it aims to investigate how pre-service science teachers’ environmental attitudes change with grade level and gender.
Method:A total of 2015 pre-service teachers enrolled at elementary school science education departments at 13 different universities in Turkey participated in the study. A 45-item Likert-type questionnaire consisting of four dimensions, namely, awareness of environmental problems, general attitudes toward solutions, awareness of individual responsibility, and awareness of national environmental problems, was used to measure pre-service teachers’ environmental attitudes. Descriptive statistics; frequency distributions and percentages, and inferential statistics; independent samples t-test and analysis of variance, were used to determine pre-service teachers’ environmental attitudes.
Findings and Results:The results of the study showed that pre-service science teachers have a high level of environmental attitudes (M = 149.67, SD = 12.10). The results also revealed that there is a statistically significant mean difference (t(2006) = 2.861, p = .004) between males and females in favour of females with a small effect size (η2= .004). The results also showed that there are no significant differences (F (3, 2011) = 2.466, p = .061) between pre-service teachers enrolling to different grades with respect to their environmental attitudes.
Conclusions and Recommendations: Overall, the results of the study indicated that today’s pre-service science teachers have positive attitudes toward the environment. Additionally, it was found that females have more positive attitudes toward the environment than males. The gender difference in favour of females may be due to the cultural roles of males and females. In traditional views of gender roles, females are responsible for looking after their children and males are usually responsible for providing the economic wellbeing of the family. As a result of these gender roles, males become more competitive and females become more protective, and thus may show more positive attitudes toward the environment. Based on these results, it is suggested that environmental education provided through all steps of formal education take gender differences into account.
Keywords: Environmental education, pre-service teachers, attitudes toward the environment, gender difference, grade level difference