Examining Climate Change Education within the VCE Curriculum and its Implementation at a Victorian Secondary School

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Prasad, Veerendra (2021) Examining Climate Change Education within the VCE Curriculum and its Implementation at a Victorian Secondary School. Research Master thesis, Victoria University.


Climate change (CC) is currently considered to be the most systemic threat to life on Earth. Education plays a critical role in the global CC response. The importance of CC education has been reiterated in most CC international conventions, including Article 12 of the 2015 Paris Climate Change Agreement. To date, only a few studies have been undertaken to examine what the Australian government, states and territories are doing in regard to educating young Australians about CC. In particular, there is a scarcity of research that examines the three critical aspects of CC education: the curriculum, the teaching of CC, and the learning of CC. This study examines CC education within the Victorian Certificate of Education (VCE) study designs; and, its implementation within a Victorian upper-secondary school. Specifically, the study examines in which VCE subjects CC is taught, its conceptualisation and integration within the subjects. In regard to implementation, the study examines the perspectives of teachers who teach CC in Years 11 and 12, and their students, with particular attention given to the implemented curriculum and the attained curriculum. Specifically, the following research questions were put forward: (1) How is CC represented in the study design for years 11-12 in the VCE curriculum, and how is it conceptualised? (2) How is CC education conceptualised and implemented in years 11-12 from the teachers’ perspectives? And, (3) How is CC education conceptualised by Years 11 and 12 students studying the topic? A qualitative methodological approach is applied to data selection and analysis. Data sources for addressing the first question consists of the study designs constituting the VCE curriculum. Keywords were developed and applied for identifying study designs in which CC is present. These were further analysed thematically. Data sources for addressing Questions 2-3 consist of semi-structured interviews with teachers and students at the selected Victorian school. Thematic analysis is applied for examining CC conceptualisation. The results indicate that CC education is present in only ten subjects out of the 96 VCE study designs. CC education in the various study designs appears in silos. Within these silos, the content knowledge is fragmented and de-contextualised from the comprehensive aspects that make up CC. The incomplete conceptualisation of CC by the curriculum also extends to teachers and students. The teachers in this study do not seem to have formal structural support for teaching CC. Additionally, the curriculum is not prescriptive enough in relation to CC, and there are no professional development or teamwork opportunities at the school that could potentially support teachers. The students in this study are eager to learn more and much of their knowledge about CC is derived from the media rather than from school, suggesting that schools are failing to equip students with appropriate CC knowledge. The study contributes applicable and translational information that may be used to improve CC education within Australian schools in general, and at the Victorian VCE level in particular. The critical deficits found in the conceptualisation of CC and integration within the curriculum should be of prime interest to policymakers, curriculum developers and educators. There is an acute need to provide teachers with appropriate CC pedagogical content knowledge and support in teaching CC at the school level.

Additional Information

Master of Education

Item type Thesis (Research Master thesis)
URI https://vuir.vu.edu.au/id/eprint/42802
Subjects Current > FOR (2020) Classification > 3901 Curriculum and pedagogy
Current > Division/Research > College of Arts and Education
Current > Division/Research > Institute for Sustainable Industries and Liveable Cities
Keywords climate change education; intended curriculum; implemented curriculum; attained curriculum; multidisciplinary education; cross-disciplinary education
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