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A Way of Visualising Children’s and Young People’s Thoughts about the Environment: a study of drawings
EVA ALERBY Lulea Ê University of Technology, Lulea Ê , Sweden
This article attempts to visualise the way in which children and young people think about a speci® c topic, namely the environment. The aim is to make the thinking of children and young people available and to interpret the meaning of their thoughts about our environment. The theoretical roots of the study are to be found within the phenomenology of the lifeworld. The study is based on empirical material consisting of drawings produced by 109 children and young people, combined with subsequent oral comments. During the drawing analysis different structures and patterns gradually crystallised, and eventually four different themes emerged, consisting of thoughts which focus on the following: the good world, the bad world, the dialectics between the good and the bad world, and symbols and actions protecting the environment. It can be stated that the results which emerged, in the form of the thoughts of the children and young people on the environment, re¯ ect a thinking characterised by many nuances, such as clean and unspoilt nature in different manifestations, the need for human beings to use nature for recreation and well-being, environmental destruction in different forms, and direct or indirect ways of taking care of the prevailing environmental situation.
Introduction This article attempts to visualise the thoughts formed in the minds of children and young people when they re¯ ect on our environment, taking their experiences as the starting point. The focus is solely on thoughts and speci® cally the contents of the thoughts. Our thoughts in turn interact with our experiences. It is through our perceptions that we experience things, and it is through our experience that they become something for us, which in turn has an effect on our thinking.
1350-4622 (print)/1469-5871 (online)/00/030205-18 Ó 2000 Taylor & Francis Ltd
and includes the process in these situations. The environment should therefore be a topic that most children and young people within the school system re¯ ect upon at least from time to time.206 E. 1993). and irrespective of the awareness in these situations. Teaching-and-learning (la È rande in Swedish) as a phenomenon embraces both teaching. forthcoming). 1998). namely our environment. Alerby The theoretical roots of the study are to be found within the phenomenology of the lifeworld (see for example Bengtsson.and learning-situations. Consequently. Why speci® cally should the environment have been chosen? Over the past few decades interest in and awareness of environmental issues have increased.Van Manen. which is in turn intended to increase the level of knowledge and in this way also the level of awareness (see for example the UNCED library. Background The thoughts analysed by this article are the thoughts of children and young people focused on a specially selected topic. education and training are stressed to a great extent. In an effort to broaden and deepen this awareness among mankind. 1995). The article provides a revised overview of one part of a doctoral thesis (Alerby. the thinking is made apparent with the aid of creative activity in the form of the production of drawings. 1990). seen both from a national (in this case a Swedish) and an international perspective. 2000). The study focuses on the thinking of children and young people about a specially selected subjectÐ the environment. The National Agency for Education. 1996. as well as the outcomes. This part is based on empirical material consisting of drawings produced by children and young people. SFS. It is therefore evident that the environment is an area that is stressed clearly and frequently in the Swedish management documents for schools at all levels. In the Swedish educational system this effort is re¯ ected in the text of the schools’ management documents: educational legislation. curricula and municipal school planning documents. The other part of the thesis is based on empirical material consisting of interviews and has been presented in a second article (Alerby. It must here be emphasised that `teaching-and-learning’ (joined with hyphens) is considered as a uni® ed phenomenon. this thinking should be of interest to schools with regard to their efforts to create good teaching-and-learning situations. Aim The overall aim of this study is to make apparent the thinking of children and young people and to interpret the meaning of their thoughts. combined with subsequent oral comments. These documents stress the importance of education and training for increasing knowledge and awareness with regard to environmental questions (The Ministry of Education. 1994. To develop an understanding of thinking on the subject of the environment. 1998. . combined with subsequent oral comments. It can also be stated that the phenomenon of teaching-and-learning occurs in both formal and informal situations. Teaching-and-learning as a phenomenon is therefore to be regarded as multi-dimensional (Alerby.
fantasises. This in turn leads to the fact that the results that become evident are a consequence of the ontological assumptions which the researcher starts out from (see Fig. 1). the method is chosen and. Ontology. epistemology. re¯ ects assumptions about reality and therefore forms the foundations of present research (Bengtsson. According to the different assumptions of different researchers about reality. feels. Taking what one wishes to know as a starting point. These `isms’ also separate the spiritual . methods. the procedure for the analysis is evident within certain limits.Thoughts about the Environment Theoretical Starting Points 207 Several of the dimensions which are present in being-in-the-world existence pervade the thoughts of children and young people. These dimensions of awareness become apparent by giving children and young people the opportunity to think and re¯ ect on them. Therefore. experiences. namely the thinking of children and young people about the environment. so that afterwards they can give expression to their thoughts with the help of drawings and words. since they determine the methods one chooses to use. analysis and results. This study limits itself ontologically to one concrete area. at the same time as the individual is constituted in the world. These methods are in turn based on epistemological assumptions. It is therefore an advantage if the ontological assumptions are made apparent within a research project. are elements in this lifeworld. reality controls the methods. and one cannot do full justice to this within the framework of the ontological assumptions of dualism and monism. depending on the choice of method. to put it more simply. dreams. it appears to be a fact that reality is constituted in the encounter with the individual. 1991). or. It is evident from this line of reasoning that ontology precedes epistemology. An examination of the basic assumptions of dualism and monism shows that these `isms’ involve some sort of reduction and generalisation within which everything is to be accommodated. believes. the theory of being. How the individual thinks. 1. FIG. hopes. acts. `reality’ looks different. This model was developed by Alerby (1998). fears. Model of the relationship between ontology. etc.
just as the individual plays a role in the in¯ uencing processes to which the world is exposed (Alerby. The starting point for the present study’s ontological assumptions is the fact that reality has many nuances and one experiences the world from the world itself. and. A combination of body and soul entails the concept of a thinking body and bodily thoughts (Bengtsson. The Methodological Basis Since the intention of this study is to clarify the thinking of children and young people on the environment. this means that the objective and subjective sides of a phenomenon are understood not as mutually excluding one another or con¯ icting with one another. An unequal relationship of dependence exists between the individual and the world. qualitative school education as viewed within the phenomenol- . to be more precise. A basis must therefore be sought in another direction. Moreover. which are intimately intertwined in the world of existence. which allows all forms of awareness. This is contrary to the philosophical tradition. especially cognitive psychology. Merleau-Ponty. namely the lifeworld in which the phenomenon emerges. 1996). The Central Concepts of the Study: thoughts. From this it follows that human awareness contains a number of different dimensions. Thoughts and thinking shall be viewed. The concept of the environment that the thinking of children and young people was focused on in the present study limits itself to the natural world. In the discipline of psychology. 1992). 1997). As a result of this the philosophical concept of thought is given further scope than the psychological concept. It follows from this that a phenomenon is also dependent on its context. on the basis of their meaning in the philosophical tradition (Husserl. 1997).208 E. a direction that leads towards the phenomenological tradition. thinking and the environment are made explicit and de® ned by stipulative de® nitions. This tradition. which devised the concept of phenomena. and consequently the basic categories of dualism and monism become insuf® cient. the focus is on qualitative school education. and therefore it can be stated that thinking is a process connected with being-in-the-world. This world comprises both nature in its original form and things and courses of events created by humans. has taken a step on the path towards an ontology that combines the spiritual and the physical (Husserl. it is not a matter of separating body and soul. Through their place in the world human beings have experiences. but as correlating with one another (Bengtsson. and therefore the conceptual limits of the meaning of thoughts have become more narrow. Alerby and the physical. experiences which appear in their awareness. These experiences are in turn requirements for thinking. The individual is dependent on the world in different ways. a world which is changeable. thinking and the environment The central concepts of the studyÐ thoughts. within the context of this study. including people. to be contained within the scope of the meaning of the concept. including the things and courses of events that manifest themselves as awareness. Moreover. 1995). 1998). thoughts are considered to be part of the cognitive awareness (see for example Eysenck & Keane. 1995.
The empirical material was collected during ordinary school activities. Arnheim (1969) expresses the opinion that visual arts are a source of visual thinking. but nevertheless it is a language and it has its own grammar. 4 and 7 of the compulsory school.000 inhabitants and includes the city of Lulea Ê . gives Lulea Ê the status of a university city. The text does not consist of a verbal language. Moreover. Their ages vary between seven and sixteen years (see Table 1). in autumn 1996. 1996. 1996. According to Van Manen (1990) an object of art can be seen as a text. Data Collection The data of the study comprise empirical material consisting of drawings produced by children and young people. 1996. and according to Van Manen (1990) the products of art can. In addition to being an industrial city with a steelworks and engineering companies. and images contain thoughts. For example. because thinking calls for images. 1998. The drawings were made during ordinary school activities. which has its main campus in Lulea Ê City. The use of empirical material consisting of drawings on different topics has been adopted by several researchers (see for example Alerby. and they attend four different schools spread across the municipality. It . That is why drawings have to be seen as one methodological implement when attempting to catch the thoughts of children and young people concerning environmental issues. The municipal area of Lulea Ê has approximately 80. and that art constitutes an advanced way of thinking. Van Manen. This age spread includes a large number of the different age groups within the school system and re¯ ects variations in age structures. Vygotsky (1971) argues that art and thinking are closely connected. be seen as lived experiences that are transformed into transcended con® gurations. which is going to be demonstrated in the following sections of this article. and all the children and young people who participated had volunteered to do so. they were divided up into smaller groups and spread out over the classroom. and form 1 of the upper secondary school. Participation in the study was voluntary. for example. The empirical material consists of drawings produced by children and young people. The methodological basis of the study largely consists of two parts: one part that concerns the methods used to collect the empirical material and another part that concerns the method of analysis. A total of 109 children and young people took part in the drawing study. It can also be stressed once more that our thoughts interact with our experiences. 1990). Lulea Ê University of Technology. the County Council and the County Administration of Norrbotten have their head of® ces in the city. Palmberg & Kuru. Lulea Ê is the central administrative city of the region. Wenestam & Wass. and to avoid the pupils in¯ uencing each other when making their drawings. in a sense. spread over four different classes within forms 1. which can be considered a medium-sized city in Sweden. 1987). The children and young people who were included in the study all live within the municipal area of Lulea Ê in the County of Norrbotten in northern Sweden. Aronsson & Andersson. Thus a drawing can tell us something. combined with subsequent oral comments.Thoughts about the Environment 209 ogy of the lifeworld (Merleau-Ponty.
During the analysis the drawings and the subsequent oral comment were viewed as a whole. Thus 105 drawings remained in the study. Directly in connection with producing the drawings. viewing each drawing as a unit and noticing qualitative similarities and differences. and patterns and structures in the drawings. taking the common and central characteristics of the patterns and structures as the point of departure. Consequently. The important issue was to visualise their thoughts. Method of Analysing the Empirical Material The analysis of the drawings tried to catch the meaning of the thoughts moulded by the children and young people. Age Gender Girl Boy Total 7 years old 14 9 23 10 years old 15 19 34 13 years old 8 13 21 16 years old 10 21 31 Total 47 62 109 was my task as the researcher to collect the empirical material in the form of the drawings. The children and young people had to answer the question. Alerby TABLE 1. The children and young people were also told that it was not important how skilful they were at making drawings. it is the different dominant themes that make the phenomenon what it is . when I asked each person what he or she was thinking about when making the drawing. for example language dif® culties. four of the drawings could not be placed in any theme. so they were excluded from the study. but instead aimed at ® nding the meaning of the children’s and young people’ s thoughts. combined with subsequent oral comments.210 E. To do this they could use paper and pencils. The study was not interested in the level of knowledge. Numbers of children and young people in the studied groups distributed by age and gender. `What do you think about when you hear the word environment?’ Instead of putting their thoughts into words they had to make a drawing depicting what came to their minds. These aspects re¯ ect the great variety of thought within the respective themes and therefore make each theme what it is. crayons or water-colours. It is important here to observe that the question was not what they had drawn. the children and young people also had to re¯ ect on their own thinking. all the drawings were analysed in a repeated and thorough manner. According to the analytical procedure. Thus the children and young people had the opportunity to give oral comments on the thoughts that they had shaped in the drawing. but what they were thinking about when the drawings were being made. These patterns and structures were then combined in different themes. The themes that emerged consist in turn of internal variations in the form of different aspects. For different reasons.
Thoughts about the Environment 211 (Van Manen. and eventually four different themes emerged which are described in detail below. such as in `the good world’. which is why this theme is represented in this article by three drawings. a forest. Consequently. However. and a sunset. which were qualitatively separate. for example. a ¯ owery meadow. these themes will also be described by showing some of the drawings. The drawings represent. focus on the dialectics between the good and the focus on symbols and actions protecting the It can here be stressed that the themes that emerged were not then regarded as self-contained and independent categories. compared with others. The phenomenon in this case is the thinking of children and young people about the environment. which occurs in some form in all of the themes. in that measures to prevent environmental destruction and to promote a better environment are preconditions for clean and beautiful countryside. the connection between the two themes `the good world’ and `symbols and actions protecting the environment’ can be mentioned. Results of the Drawing Analysis During the drawing analysis different structures and patterns gradually crystallised. without any relative order of precedence. our thinking is constituted by our place in the world. The theme of `the good world’ comprises approximately 50% of all the drawings. · · · · Thoughts which Thoughts which Thoughts which bad world. which were investigated in detail. this in¯ uence can be very marginal. The themes that gradually crystallised are made up of the thoughts moulded by the children and young people concerned. As an example of a connection between the different themes. as well as some of the oral comments. 1990). Thoughts which environment. for example in `the bad world’. On the contrary there are connections within and between the different themes. 1990). which represent each different theme. An example of a link between all four themes is human in¯ uence. It is therefore a matter of forming themes of the thoughts in the analysis. These thoughts are in constant contact with and are affected by experiences (Van Manen. focus on the good world. but instead should be dealt with by allowing the phenomenon to appear as it is. Thoughts which Focus on the Good World This theme comprises drawings that depict clean and unspoilt nature in different manifestations. as . In certain themes. where human in¯ uence dominates almost completely. The common feature of the nature pictures is that they portray the environment as clean. it is important to stress that this process should not be regarded as being governed by certain predetermined rules. focus on the bad world. The other themes comprise approximately 16% each and are therefore represented by two drawings each. beautiful and idyllic natural landscape. a mountain. In the following sections.
with a good 50% in each group expressing such . Fig. i. Alerby well as seas. 4 is an example of a drawing depicting a cultivated landscapeÐ a plot of vegetables. I’m a boy scout. 3. 2. and these all convey a feeling of unspoiled and idyllic nature.212 E. Fig. 16 years old. nice and unspoiled countryside. This is the future ¼ it is bright ¼ I think the environment is going to be better (boy. FIG. natural pictures. 3 is an example of a human being using nature for pleasure and recreation. with some trees.e. There follows some of the drawings in the themes of the good world. I’m thinking about a life out of doors. so I usually spend a lot of time outdoors (boy. the ideal. The results also showed that these thoughts are as common within the three youngest groups. 10 years old). But there are also some drawings that represent cultivated landscapes. plants and a river. for example a park or a plot of vegetables. lakes and rivers. The girls expressed thoughts focusing on the good world to a greater extent than the boys did. FIG. Aspects of this theme are included in drawings which represent different types of clean. This drawing (Fig. Some of the drawings also depict animals or human beings. The drawings that contain human beings depict people using nature for their recreation and well-being. 2) represents the environment as clean.
in the form of pollution from a car and a factory. 5. This can be compared with the oldest age group. The following drawing (Fig. In addition. There follows some drawings within the theme of the bad world. namely devastation of forest land. There are not any major differences within the theme of the bad world that depend on age. FIG. These drawings then depict the environment only from the aspects of destruction.Thoughts about the Environment 213 FIG. environmental destruction is depicted by the death of forests and the devastation of forest land. I’m thinking of destruction ¼ cars and factories (boy. where approximately 30% expressed thoughts on this theme. in a plot of vegetables (girl. One divergence occurs in the age group consisting of 13 . Thoughts which Focus on the Bad World Within this theme the drawings depict various types of environmental destruction. The drawing below (Fig. thoughts. Environmental destruction is represented by car exhaust fumes. 5) depicts environmental destruction. Well ¼ I don’t remember what you call it ¼ hm ¼ vegetables. which is therefore the common feature within this theme. 7 years old). 4. factory discharges and litter spread over land and sea. 6) is another example of environmental destruction. 13 years old).
was placed in this theme. This in turn indicates that the common feature of this theme is dialectical thinking on the good and the bad world. with one side representing the good world and the other side the bad world.214 E. The results showed that rather more boys than girls have thoughts that focus on the bad world. For example on the left part of the sheet. In this drawing (Fig. in that the drawings here depict both themes combined. cutting down a lot of trees. 8 also represents the dialectics between the good and the bad. but this drawing was done as a whole. Alerby FIG. Then both human beings and animals would die ¼ I think ¼ because trees give oxygen ¼ specially the tropical rainforest (girl. there is a bicycle. and so on. year-olds. illustrating a clean and pleasant environment. There follows below some examples of drawings within the theme of the dialectics between the good and the bad world. On the bad side the trash is littering the ground and on the good side the trash is in the trashcan. the good side. One part of the sheet depicts the good world and the other part the bad world. Fig. a boy. in that only one person. 7 years old). the bad side. there is a motorcycle. 6. The children’s and young people’ s drawings representing this theme are often divided up into two parts on the same sheet of paper. Fig. but with elements of destruction and pollution. It can also be stated that there are some differences between the genders. and on the right part. It represents a beautiful environment. 7 is an example of a drawing that is divided into two parts. in this case in the form of pollution from a factory. It is thus evident that this theme contains both of the previous themes. Thoughts which Focus on the Dialectics Between the Good and the Bad World The third theme consists of drawings that depict both clean and unspoilt nature and environmental destruction. I’m thinking about a lot of people in the forest. 7) it is especially worth observing the fact that this boy has contrasted every small detail of the drawing. . But there are also drawings that are drawn as a whole. but has one element of pollution. These drawings depict therefore the good and the bad world and the relationship between these two.
FIG. Thoughts that focus on the dialectics between the good and the bad world are much more common in the two oldest age groups.Thoughts about the Environment 215 FIG. In the latter two groups this thinking is only represented by two boys. Thoughts which Focus on Symbols and Actions Protecting the Environment The environment is portrayed within this theme through direct and indirect ways of taking care of the prevailing environmental situation. which also constitutes the common feature within this theme. 7. This fact also shows that the thoughts on this theme are more than twice as many within the group of boys. these drawings depict not only different types of recycling stations. I’m thinking of nature and colour. 8. the ultimate objective of which is to improve or not to worsen the environmental situation. but also different types of eco-labelled products. . compared with the two youngest age groups. All in all the drawings within this theme represent different forms of action. Within this theme there is a plain difference between the age groups. This is much smaller [pointing at the factory on the mountain] than nature. which includes destruction. but still the smoke from the factory can block the sun (girl. Some examples of drawings within this theme are shown below. 13 years old). For example. one a 7 year-old and the other a 10 year-old. 13 years old). compared with the group of girls. I’m thinking of a good and a bad environment (boy. Within the two oldest age groups this thinking is represented by four girls and 11 boys.
To be more concrete. The drawing below (Fig. 9. FIG. 10.216 E. There are no major differences between the age and gender groups within the theme of symbols and actions protecting the environment. To use things over and over again. The following drawing (Fig. Alerby FIG. If these multi-faceted thoughts are to be taken seriously. 7 years old). I thought ¼ sometimes people throw things all over the place. I’m thinking about recycling. It is like a box where you separate the trash before you throw it away and then they take it to another place and they make new things of the trash (girl. 10) is another example of this theme and it represents solid waste separation. It is no good to throwing trash in the countryside. Discussion It can be stated that the results that emerge. it can be stated that focusing thoughts on the good world constitutes the most common way of moulding thoughts on the environment. 7 years old). 9) represents the recycling of bottles. it is necessary in the teaching-and-learning situation to take the thinking of young citizens into account. re¯ ect a thinking that is characterised by many nuances. . in the form of the thoughts of children and young people on the environment. You have to throw it in a waste-container. so you don’t have to make new things all the time (boy.
there are also some exceptional cases. The latter perspective. The people in the oldest age group also focused their thinking on aspects of environmental destruction that they did not have in their own neighbourhoods. In this case they were related to the environmental destruction that they had experienced in a concrete way. Within the theme of the bad world the results show that the thoughts of the youngest children focused on their own concrete reality. Similar results have also been reported by Palmer (1996). thoughts that focus on symbols and actions protecting the environment. have thoughts that give expression to the dialectics between an environment characterised by clean. However. However. They also referred to the effect of environmental destruction. The results also show that this thinking was more common within the three youngest age groups compared with the oldest age group. Von Wright. placing man in a central position as `the master of nature’ originates in our Jewish-Christian cultural heritage. However. The results also show another difference between the different age groups within this theme. One can also detect a difference between the sexes. ozone holes. This difference might be explained by the fact that the thinking process of the youngest children derives from their own concrete reality. unspoiled nature. Thinking focused on the good world is also more common within the group of girls. and environmental destruction. The ® nding that young children live in the `here and now’ is completely in line with earlier research (see for example Piaget. it is evident that the boys. In this case a 7 year-old girl expressed thoughts that can be interpreted as comprehensive global thinking. i. Thoughts that focus on the dialectics between the good and the bad world are represented to a greater extent in the two oldest age groups. The children in the two youngest age groups expressed thoughts that focused on a `now’ perspective. 1951). etc. compared with the two youngest age groups. one can detect a dividing line between those who think about the environment from a biocentric perspective and those who instead take an anthropocentric perspective as their point of departure. the thinking of the older age group can take several dimensions into consideration. on the one hand. in the form of the consequences for animals. beautiful. i. Concerning the fourth theme. Anthropocentrism is a fundamental component of Western thought (So È rlin. 1991. ® ne. In contrast to the youngest age group. in the form of the consequences of tropical rainforest destruction. where only two drawings represent this theme. Moreover. This girl also expressed the idea that it was the material needs and aims of human beings that were causing the devastation of the rainforests.Thoughts about the Environment 217 Approximately 50% of all the drawings were placed in this theme. 1995). roughly twice as often as the girls. it appears that the youngest age group . no difference appears between the age groups or gender groups as a whole. on the other hand. while that of the oldest age group also derives from a comprehensive global view. the children and young people who participated in this study also expressed thoughts that focused on the effects of the devastation of rainforests. compared with the group of boys. for example the greenhouse effect. one of which was presented earlier (see Fig. with regard to the children and young people whose thinking has been placed within this theme. 6).e. even if it is not as distinct as the difference between the age groups. In agreement with Palmer’s study. while the pupils in the two oldest age groups expressed thoughts that also focused on a future perspective.e.
or how skilfully the drawing was done. Wylie et al. This could be an evident risk. `How well can a drawing visualise a thought?’ It may seem obvious that there is a limitation in the real ability of a person to reproduce through a drawing what that person is really thinking about. With regard to the differences that have emerged between boys and girls concerning their thinking. Moreover. The results also show that there are some differences in the thoughts. 1951). Common for all the children and young people within this theme is that they all have thoughts that aim at actions. Lisa immediately thinks about an idyllic ¯ owery meadow that has run wild. to illustrate this line of reasoning.. but in this case it was not the subject of the drawings that was the essential thing. 1998. 1974). forthcoming). and hear the singing of birds and the bumble-bees buzzing in the . an analysis of drawings has been performed. but also the teenagers between 13 and 16 place a greater emphasis on the well-being of animals than on the well-being of human beings (see for example Alerby. where her grandmother lives. It also appears that to the youngest children such concrete actions are very important to protect animals from harm. However. 1978. which represents a direct and concrete action that they can do by themselves. the results also show differences compared with Piaget’s theory on the stages of development. Finally it can be stated that the results that emerged from this study on the thinking of children and young people on the environment show that the thinking of a great majority of the participants focuses on a positive view of the environmentÐ the good world. Within this theme. which represents a thinking that focuses on indirect actions. This article has presented some examples of the thoughts that are formed in the minds of children and young people when they re¯ ect on environmental issues. Here is an invented example. Therefore. differences that are related to both age and gender and are in accordance with Piaget’s theory on the stages of development (Piaget. for example. She can even smell the ¯ owers. This discrepancy is the same as that referred to in the criticism that has been directed at Piaget’s theory on the stages of development (see for example Donaldson. In an attempt to visualise the thoughts. Alerby depicted their thoughts by drawing. in that some of the younger children in some cases had a capacity to think in an abstract way and also engaged in system-thinking. She can see exactly what it looks like in the countryside. who is 10 years old and is instructed to draw what she is thinking about when she hears the word `environment’.218 E. 1998). in this case a 6 year-old child. these thoughts contain normative features in that they focus on what people can do and ought to do to improve our environment or to avoid harming it. thinking on the subject of the environment does not constitute any exception to this ® nding. The fact that children. One question of research worth noting for discussion is. the recycling of bottles. Instead the drawing conveys a message of meaning and it was this meaning which the analysis tried to catch. the older age group also depicted different types of eco-labels and eco-labelled products. Consider Lisa. It can be stressed here that not only the younger children. it can be noted that previous research has shown that thinking typical of each sex is found in all the stages of development (see for example Maccoby & Jacklin. a paradigm case. and there are a great number of ¯ owers and herbs growing on the meadow. call attention to the situation of animals when litter is spread over the countryside has also been shown by a study by Palmer (1995). 1996.
three ¯ owers in the grass. since a photo can for example never reproduce smells or sounds. of course. and here situations diverge from one another.Thoughts about the Environment 219 air over a wild rose bush. The sky is blue and the sun is shining. It has been shown that the thoughts of the children and young people who participated in the study are well worth noting and making use of. two trees on the left side. Inside her head she can also see a stream and hear it murmuring through a grove. in this case. crayons or water-colours? Lisa is thinking and then she starts to make a drawing. However. but the conclusion is still the same. She also draws some wavy lines representing the birds. all with a view to promoting learning. At ® rst glance it can seem that many dimensions are missing. Does the educational system (in this case the Swedish educational system) provide a milieu where children’s and young people’ s experiences and thoughts are given attention? Of course the question cannot be answered by an unequivocal `Yes’ or `No’. Instead the drawing has to be seen as a symbolic language. even if the drawing does not reproduce the thinking like a photo. A meaning that. How are these thoughts going to be visualised by means of a white sheet of paper of two dimensions and some pencils. A drawing can in a speci® c way convey the meaning of a person’s thinking. As a starting point. In order that knowledge might emanate from the roots of a subject. is also impossible for a drawing to achieve. The dimensions of human awareness contain thoughts. But what can such a drawing convey when it is the subject of an analysis? Lisa does not have the capacity to reproduce all her thoughts. She draws green grass at the very bottom of the sheet of paper. and between the two trees she draws a blue streak representing the stream. Even if it looks as if dimensions are missing. the school should consider whether teaching-and-learning situations are geared to the lifeworld or not. This simpli® ed drawing cannot do justice to the nuanced thoughts which are hidden inside Lisa. this symbolic language conveys the meaning of Lisa’s thinking. idyllic and unspoiled natureÐ the good world. and these thoughts are shaped by experience. thoughts which can form the basis of teaching-and-learning situations. From this follows the need to try to `catch thoughts’. and ® nally she draws a big yellow sun and a blue sky. Then she draws a bush on the right side of the sheet. Now Lisa is readyÐ this is what her thinking looks like. one question that we can ask ourselves is how one can de® ne a teaching-and-learning situation that pays attention to children’s and young people’s thoughts. teaching-andlearning situations should start out from the lifeworld which the pupils inhabit. Conclusions This study has been based on an analysis of drawings produced by children and young people on the subject of the environment. with an absolute exactitude. which. Instead it is a matter of which conditions are permitted to develop in different teaching-and-learning situations. focuses on clean. which are a wealth of details. A great number of examples can be given. But here it can be stressed that not even a photo can depict reality `as it is’. What then is the current situation in Swedish schools? Evaluations of the .
Truedsson (1993). It is therefore apparent that all subject teachers should cease campaigning against everyday thinking. From the above it can be ascertained that the school as an institution has the preferential right of interpretation concerning the communication of the `right’ and `best’ thoughts. who has reviewed both national and international studies with regard to the thinking of pupils in the natural sciences. The consequence of this. Hellde Â n (1992). consequently. However. and. Moreover. Sa È ljo È (1995b) is of the opinion that an alternative interpretation of the results of the evaluation is that the problems are to be found in the confrontation between two communicative patterns. Consequently. Alerby knowledge and achievement of Swedish schoolchildren regarding the environment show that they have shortcomings concerning the formation of fundamental concepts in science subjects (see for example National Agency for Education.220 E. but rather something that several research studies call attention to all over the world (see for example Driver et al. Truedsson. the school ought to ® nd methods for developing communicative patterns so that scienti® c concepts may become both functional and essential.e. a `better’ or a `worse’ way of thinking about and perceiving different phenomena in the world. for example. which is not something to be eradicated (Sa È ljo È . people are talking at cross-purposes. This line of reasoning is not at all unique to Swedish conditions. and it is thus apparent that there is a `right’ or a `wrong’. Should we at all costs change the `robust’ and `deep-rooted’ thinking of children and young people to please those who think `better’? Or should we create conditions where the genuine thinking of children and young people may obtain the opportunity to develop. that they have a tendency to use everyday thinking instead of scienti® c forms of thinking. 1994). from the general scienti® c perspective. also expresses the opinion that pupils exhibit serious shortcomings in their knowledge of the natural sciences. Moreover. 1992c. 1993). is of the opinion that the everyday thinking of pupils is both robust and deep-rooted. the common feature of both approaches is that they undeniably regard the thinking of pupils as a very important factor for learning. according to Truedsson.. pupils can encounter dif® culties in understanding new situations. Sa È ljo È considers that people develop concepts through communicative challenges. starting out from their current intellectual capacity? In this connection I mean conditions that would be allowed to emanate from the facticity of their thinking. It is my personal opinion that. and environmental problems are cited as an example of `new situations’. . 1992a. is that the pupils’ everyday ideas sometimes supersede the scienti® c approach that the school is trying to teach and thus hinder understanding. the evaluations call attention to the fact that the pupils exhibit an `everyday thinking’ which is dif® cult to replace by the formation of scienti® c concepts and which is considered to be an obstacle to learning. 1995b). Sa È ljo È (1995a) adopts a critical view of this line of reasoning in that he poses the question of whether scienti® c tools of thought are absolutely necessary to understand environmental problems. and it is often dif® cult to in¯ uence their everyday thinking through teaching. i. and. among other failings. 1992b. who has summarised the results of a Swedish evaluation. according to these evaluations. there is equal justi® cation for questioning the primacy of the concept formation of the natural science within the school and for attacking the actual thinking of pupils.
EYSENCK. 18 [in Swedish] (Stockholm. SQUIRES. pp. 19 [in Swedish] (Stockholm. (1996) Let a thousand ¯ owers blossom ¼ conceptions of the environment possessed by some seven-year olds [in Swedish]. E-mail: Eva. ARONSSON . The Assessments of Teachers and Pupils.E. NATIONAL AGENCY FOR EDUCATION (1992a) National Evaluation of the Compulsory School. 14. J. 1. (1995) The Idea of Phenomenology [in Swedish] (Gothenburg. Possibilities and limits of an integrated didactics [in Swedish]. ARNHEIM . Science Subjects. Routledge). ALERBY. E (2000) Some re¯ ections on teaching-and-learning as a phenomenon. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Ltd). Daidalos AB). J. Liber). Pedagogisk forskning i Sverige . ALERBY. (1996) Phenomenology of Perception (London. & KURU. MACCOBY. G. A phenomenologicalstud y of the thinking of children and young people about the environment [in Swedish] (Lulea Ê . Report No. (1998) Outdoor activities as a source of environmental responsibility. & JACKLIN .Alerby@lh. Routledge). Report No.luth.Thoughts about the Environment Acknowledgements 221 This research was supported by Lulea Ê Municipality and Lulea Ê University of Technology in Sweden. P. (1969) Visual Thinking (Berkeley. 241± 261. M. J. & WOOD-ROBINSON . Centre for Research in Teaching and Learning at Lulea Ê University of Technology.. C. S. Ecology and the Human Body. & ANDERSSON. K. pp. R. NATIONAL AGENCY FOR EDUCATION (1992b) National Evaluation of the Compulsory School. Science Subjects. University of California Press). V. HUSSERL . BENGTSSON . British Journal of Developmental Psychology . Daidalos). (1998) To catch a thought. (1997) Didactical dimensions. BENGTSSON . E. 1990) Cognitive Psychology (Hove. orig. J. Paper presented at NFPF congress. Science Subjects. Lulea Ê University of Technology. (1992. E. Report No. A. & KEANE . DONALDSON. 20 [in Swedish] (Stockholm. M. Matter. (1998) Phenomenological Excursions [in Swedish] (Gothenburg. 5± 16.N. Lulea Ê University of Technology). Kristiansand. Fontana Press). NATIONAL AGENCY FOR EDUCATION (1992c) National Evaluation of the Compulsory School. La È rarutbildning och forskning i Umea Ê . (1991) The Phenomenological Movement in Sweden [in Swedish] (Gothenburg. Liber). Liber). E. (1994) Making Sense of Secondary Science. (1978) Children’s Minds (London. THE MINISTRY OF EDUCATION (1994) Curriculum for the Compulsory School System and the Voluntary Types of School [in Swedish] (Stockholm Department of Education). Correspondence: Centre for Research in Teaching and Learning. Daidalos). SEÐ 971 87 Lulea Ê . 301± 314. Almqvist & Wiksell International).se REFERENCES ALERBY. NATIONAL AGENCY FOR EDUCATION (1996) The Collective Support for Environmental EducationÐ an evaluation [in Swedish] (Stockholm. pp. E. . Liber). mars 9± 12. MERLEAU-PONTY. (1996) Social scaling in children’s drawings of classroom life: a cultural comparative analysis of social scaling in Africa and Sweden. The author also acknowledges the help of the children and young people who participated in this study. DRIVER. (1992) Compulsory School Pupils’ Understanding Of Ecological Processes [in Swedish] HELLDE (Stockholm. I.. (1974) The Psycology of Sex Differences (Stanford. E. ALERBY. RUSHWORTH. R. M. Sweden. (forthcoming) Roaming in the landscape of thought: a phenomenological study of the thinking of children and young people about the environment. BENGTSSON . Research into Children’s Ideas (London. Notes on Contributor EVA ALERBY is a Senior Lecturer of Teaching-and-Learning at the Department of Teachers Education. Â N . Stanford University Press). 1(4). PALMBERG. Norway. M.
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