Portfolios In Environmental Education Education Essay

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Introduction

Environmental education provides a basis for living on this Earth in less destructive, more peaceful, equitable, and sustainable ways. Environmental education needs to empower people, irrespective of age, gender, race, social role and responsibility, to think for themselves, develop standards for ethical and moral life choices, be better citizens, create more caring families and communities, preserve our natural habitat, and live more emotionally and spiritually satisfying lives (Filho, 2003). The Wisconsin Environmental Education Board defines environmental education as "a lifelong learning process that leads to an informed and involved citizenry having the creative problem solving skills, scientific and social literacy, ethical awareness and sensitivity for the relationship between humans and the environment, and commitment to engage in responsible individual and cooperative actions. By these actions, environmentally literate citizens will help ensure an ecologically and economically sustainable environment" (Fortier, Grady, Lee & Marinac, 1998). As argued by Tal (2005) one of the major objectives of environmental education is "encouraging the learners to be involved in their environment by posing questions, looking for relevant information, critiquing decision making processes and participating in such processes" (p. 576).

Within such a learning environment, environmental education cannot be seen simply as another curricular subject which exposes students to knowledge about the environment. It is inextricably bound to learning skills, attitudes and values and cannot be separated from its wider personal, social or political dimensions (Jenkins, 2003). In order to educate environmentally literate and active students, various settings and teaching methods should be employed. These include classroom based and outdoor learning, project-based learning, using multiple resources, learning about socio-scientific controversies and involving the broader community (Tal, 2004). A study by Pooley and O'Connor (2000) supports the notion that environmental attitudes may be based on different sources of information, and therefore attitudes towards specific environmental issues may be predicted by both cognition (beliefs) and affect (emotions or feelings). The authors state that "both cognition and affect are important to understanding environmental attitudes in environmental education" (p. 719). Vanhear and Pace (2008), while stressing that "what matters is not what knowledge is delivered but how it is delivered and experienced" warn against the transmission of inert environmental information that never gets sifted into action. They contend that to better the chances of bridging the knowledge - action gap, knowledge needs to be meaningful for the learner and sensitive to the learner's personalised learning process.

Due to these complex issues there is no one clear cut way in which environmental education can be delivered in schools. The European Union for example, supports the integration of environmental education into all school disciplines. In some countries this is interpreted as a cross-curricular integrated approach. In others, environmental education is a separate subject (Battelli, 2003). Since environmental education also requires "the accommodation of the personal, social, and economic with the scientific as an integral whole, it constitutes a challenge to conventional subject based curriculum and pedagogy" (Jenkins and Pell, 2006, p. 777). A study by Hungerford and Volk (1990) has shown that the link between students' environmental awareness and their environmental behaviour is at best only weakly positive. This means that the way in which environmental education is promoted in schools, in curricula, in pedagogy and in assessment needs to be critically reviewed and alternative forms of teaching, learning and assessing environmental education need to be explored. As argued by Tal (2005) the wide scope of learning in environmental education:

...requires a suitable assessment programme that reflects the various aspects, modes and settings in which learning occurs. Such assessment programme should address students' outcomes of inquiry learning and critical thinking, their developing awareness of environmental issues, actual involvement in the environment and performances in class as well as outdoors (p. 576).

This paper explores the way in which such a suitable assessment programme was developed by the TEPEE (Towards a European Portfolio for Environmental Education) Network. The main aim of the paper is to discuss the development and implementation of a European Portfolio for Environmental Education within seven European countries, and explore the advantages and disadvantages of the use of alternative assessment principles, namely portfolios within the context of environmental education. This paper was co-authored by the project's external evaluator and by one of the members of the project's scientific committee.

Learning and Assessment in Environmental Education

New ideas about learning are based very much on a social constructivist point of view which sees students as actively making sense of new knowledge and deciding how to integrate it with previously held concepts (Klenowski, 2002). Mental representations are continually being confirmed, rejected, adapted, reformed or developed in response to experiences both inside and outside school. Learning also depends on what the students bring with them into the classroom (Bruner, 2004) and takes place within a social context (Bransford, Brown, and Cocking, 1999). The presentation of learning as both socially constructed and context specific (Lave & Wenger, 1991) is important in the development of environmental education programmes which take into consideration students' life situations and context and new influences which are able to change dispositions. As argued by Murphy and Ivinson (2003), the "social norms and values encountered in communities such as family, peer group and friendship groups, are taken up by students, and influence their negotiation and management of their participation, and hence, their learning in classroom settings" (p. 6). These views about learning match very closely the principles of environmental education and as argued by Tal (2005):

It is widely accepted that learning in EE and science depends on previous knowledge and perceptions of the learner, and that learning occurs mainly in a social context, when learners interact and share ideas, thoughts and actions. All these are in accord with the constructivist view of learning that focuses on the learners and recognises that they have to be active in the process of learning. Social constructivism emphasises social interaction among learners that enable asking questions, sharing ideas, debating, arguing, concluding and collaborating while creating products and artefacts (p. 577).

In order to be effective, environmental education needs to bring about a change in behaviour and students need to undergo a shift from knowing about environmental issues to acting on environmental issues. If such behaviour is to be maintained it needs to be sustained by a strong value base. This is the notion of environmental education for empowerment and that which "requires not only interest in, engagement with, and motivation for environmental action ... but a degree of confidence that an individual can contribute to effecting change ..." (Jenkins and Pell, 2006, p. 767). Reflection confronts learned values with the learners' own day-to-day choices and lifestyles leading learners to clarify, challenge, consolidate or replace their learned values. This process internalises values so that action is backed up by conscious and responsible decisions (the process is summarised in Figure 1). Traditional methods of delivering knowledge and assessing learning cannot adequately take into account this empowerment of learners. New pedagogic and assessment tools are needed in order to take account of how the learners have managed to develop their own environmental beliefs and values within a particular school or informal community.

New ideas about learning have also led to a shift in the way in which we think about assessment processes. As argued by Hughes and Boyle (2005), "the care that we put into the design of assessment is likely to influence the quality of our students' learning more than, say decisions we make about the content of a lecture schedule" (p. 1). In recent years there has been a shift in assessment practices from the summative "assessment of learning" generally using tests and examinations to "assessment for learning" which is described by Black, Harrison, Lee, Marshall and Wiliam (2003) as "a process, one in which information about learning is evoked and then used to modify the teaching and learning activities in which teachers are involved" (p. 22). The implication is that assessment is used to identify students' existing knowledge and reveal ways of developing understanding. It also focuses on the idea that students' bring with them into the classroom multiple intelligences (Gardner, 1993) and that these different intelligences need to be taken into consideration when assessing student learning. Assessment for learning is based on the principles that assessment is an integral part

Figure 1:`Concept map outlining how values are processed. (Bold lines highlight the processes that are facilitated through environmental education methodologies)of teaching and learning; that every learner can improve and develop new understandings, that feedback and questioning play an important role in the development and improvement of students and that students are actively involved in their own learning and assessment process (Weeden, Winter and Broadfoot, 2002). But how can assessment for learning be implemented within environmental education? The complex and cross-curricular nature of environmental education and its emphasis on higher order thinking skills, informal experiences in school as well as out of school, its focus on the acquisition of values and on changing behaviour, necessitates an assessment model which goes beyond testing student understanding of environmental issues. Within such a framework and based on the constructivist principles outlined above it is important to address the issue of assessment in environmental education. As argued by Tal (2005):

Complex learning environments as often provided by environmental education engage students in project-based learning, field trips and enhance higher-order thinking skills by encouraging students to ask questions, critique information and suggest alternatives. The traditional instruments for measuring scientific literacy do not fully convey the essence of student performance in such settings. These learning environments require the implementation of multifaceted, complex assessment frameworks as well (p. 578).

Portfolio Assessment

One form of assessment which ties in very well with constructivist views of learning and the principles of environmental education is Portfolio Assessment. Jervis (1996) describes a portfolio as, "a careful and conscious collection of a student's work which provides a multidimensional picture of a student's learning over time, accounts for both process and products, and includes the active participation of students in their own learning" (p. 1). However, the portfolio is more than a mere scrapbook with a collection of student work. The portfolio involves thought and reflection, firstly about what will actually go into the portfolio, and secondly, reflection about progress and development through self-assessment or dialogue with the teacher or peers. As described by Seely (1994) portfolios "... are dynamic, interactive and multidimensional ... they are evidence of students' construction of knowledge structures that will carry them on to future paths of learning" (p. 70). The portfolio provides a picture into the process of learning which the student undergoes. Klenowski (2002) states:

In developing a portfolio of work, students are engaged in learning as an interactive process. The portfolio connects process and product. Student learning is documented and the expectation is that they will actively explore and evaluate that learning through engaging with their teachers, other students or peers. Collaboration, dialogue and reflection become essential processes in the construction of the portfolio of work (p. 109).

Stecher (1998) describes portfolios as containing diverse products of students' learning experiences, including written materials, pictures, graphs, computer programs, and other outcomes of student work. Portfolios are usually cumulative and they contain work completed over a period of weeks or months. Portfolios also have a reflective component - either implicit in the student's choice of work or explicit in a letter to a reviewer explaining the selection of materials (Chetcuti and Grima, 2001). Artefacts which can be included in an environmental education portfolio include evidence of problem solving tasks such as stories written about environmental issues; photographs or written reports of project work carried out; written reports and teachers' assessments of co-operative group work; evidence of involvement in community projects; and evidence of involvement in co-operative projects such as students' exchanges (Chetcuti, 2003). Each artefact should be accompanied by a reflective piece indicating what the student has learnt. Reflection actively involves the students in the process of learning and assessment and as stated by Weeden et al. (2002) it helps students become more committed and effective learners. The portfolio is also a means whereby teachers can give feedback to students regarding the progress of their work, either through written comments or through rubrics including criteria for success. Black and Wiliam (1998) suggest that feedback is one of the key factors in promoting learning. It helps to close the gap between current ideas and desired learning outcomes. Reflection allows the students to take charge and assume ownership over their own learning (Paulson, Paulson and Meyer, 1991).

The key characteristics of portfolio assessment with relevance to environmental education are:

It provides opportunities for students to be creative and to include evidence of work carried out both in school as well as out of school. Reports, narratives, results of project work and field trips can be included in the portfolio. It reflects "the various aspects, modes and settings in which learning occurs" (Tal, 2005, p. 576). Portfolio documentation also makes learning visible by capturing descriptions of students' learning experiences, digital photos of their explorations, and concept webs and daily work samples tell a cohesive story of the learning experience that can be shared with students, parents and administrators (McNair, 2004).

It shows the development of student thoughts and ideas about environmental education. In the reflective writings included in the portfolios students can show how they solved and tackled problems related to the environment and how their views changed over time. This constructivist approach involves "creating opportunities for students to make their own ideas explicit, share them with others, subject them to critical scrutiny and test their robustness by observation and/or experiment" (Hodson, 1998, p. 35).

It shows ability and achievement in different contexts and students can use their "multiple intelligences" (Gardner, 1993) to demonstrate problem solving, higher order thinking skills and deep understanding of environmental issues.

It allows collaboration with teachers and peers and "gives students the opportunities to examine and to carry out analyses of their ideas, beliefs, constructions and values" (Klenowski, 2002, p. 111). This provides an insight to both students and teachers about the processes involved in choosing a particular course of action.

It allows the students to critically evaluate their own work and reflect on the processes they went through in their learning. This gives the students responsibility over their own learning, they can make their own choices and this helps to develop the decision making skills and the changes in environmental attitudes which is one of the main goals of environmental education. As stated by Klenowski (2002), "portfolios provide opportunities for reflection on experience and problem-solving which involve cycles of thought action and reflection" (p. 113).

It provides feedback to the student regarding the competencies they have acquired in environmental education. It shows students what they have managed to achieve and as argued by Filho (2003) this building of competence in environmental education, helps to empower individuals to think for themselves, integrates cognitive and experiential learning, gels the theoretical and the practical and, though the metacognitive ability of being able to assess all of these individuals, can lead to more healthy, fulfilling and satisfying lives.

The use of portfolio assessment therefore shifts the focus from the products of learning and assessment to the processes. Learning and assessment thus become person-oriented rather than task-oriented and hence more relevant to the learners' experiences and needs. The processes involved in this kind of assessment encourage learners to take responsibility for their own learning, to be reflective and in the process change and develop their views and ideas, which is a key goal of environmental education.

The TEPEE Project

TEPEE or Towards a European Portfolio for Environmental Education is the name of a network cofinanced by the European Commission in the framework of the Socrates Program. The TEPEE Network and project were conceptualised by eight partners under the leadership of Italy's Legambiente which was the network co-ordinator. The participating countries were Germany, Italy, Malta, Portugal, Romania and Sweden. The partners were secondary or primary education institutions, Universities, a school inspectorate and environmental organisations. This gave a good mix of diverse institutions which could offer different areas of expertise and experiences to develop joint reflection and innovation in the area of environmental education.

The main aim of the TEPEE Network as identified by the members of the scientific committee was to establish a network of teachers, experts, University lecturers, members of environmental organisations who together could share their experiences on the assessment of competence in environmental education leading to the development of a common European framework for the accreditation and certification of environmental education activities in schools. As stated by Scaluni (2003a) one of the Network co-ordinators, one of the aims of TEPEE was to "ideate and experiment a portfolio for the certification of complex competencies, like those proper of environmental education" (p. 9).

The thematic area and focus of the TEPEE Network is environmental education. As stated by Boullier (2003), "environmental education is at the heart of the educational process. It is essential for providing all pupils with skills and competencies, for giving them a sense of responsibility, for concretely promoting education in democratic citizenship" (p. 7). The problem with environmental education is that, in various countries across Europe, it has a different status in school curricula. While some countries such as Denmark, Spain and Scotland, treat environmental education as a multidisciplinary approach and is built into a number of different topics; in other countries such as Finland, environmental education is a separate topic in the curriculum and its role is to promote sustainable development along with the protection of biodiversity (Battelli, 2003). Another problem identified by Scaluni (2003b) is the assessment of the competencies developed through environmental education programs. Since most of these programs are in fact cross curricular it is very difficult to develop an assessment tool which encompasses all the competencies and skills gained by students following an environmental education program. Furthermore, since environmental education is so diverse in the different countries of the European Union, there is no way of comparing the competencies and skills developed by students involved in environmental education across different European countries. The problems identified by the scientific committee of the TEPEE network led to the design and development of a European Portfolio for Environmental Education (EPEE) which would be " a tool for learners of any age and of all levels, to record their competencies and experiences in the field, in a clear and internationally comparable way" (Scaluni, 2003b, p. 28).

The design and Implementation of EPEE

The EPEE was designed by the Scientific Committee of the TEPEE Network. The design of the EPEE was based on the principles of learning and assessment which were identified previously, namely:

The belief that learning is socially constructed and that learners bring with them into environmental education previous knowledge and beliefs which they constructed in their interactions within their social communities of family, peers and school. This knowledge has to be re-constructed and co-constructed in order to develop new ideals and values in environmental education.

The view that assessment is for learning and that it is a process through which students learn about their strengths and weakness, and constantly strive to improve their knowledge and values in environmental education.

The idea that students have multiple intelligences and that all these different intelligences need to be used in the assessment of competence or as it is defined in EPEE "what one can do (ability) in a given context, based on what is learned (knowledge), to achieve a set aim and produce new knowledge" (EPEE, 2005, p. 4).

The principles of environmental education which promote higher-order thinking skills, problem solving skills, attitudes, values and a commitment that allows active participation in decision making (North American Association for Environmental Education, 1999).

With these basic principles in mind the Scientific Committee set about designing a EPEE drawing on the diverse experiences of the different countries represented in the partnership. The main aim was to develop a portfolio that would be able to:

Show the owner's knowledge and capability in relation to environmental education by supplementing formal recognitions, certificates and diplomas, with additional information about the learner's experiences and achievements.

Encourage the learner's self-evaluation by helping him/her to reflect and assume responsibility for his/her learning process, whether at school or outside school.

Propose a system of evaluation and accreditation for proficiency in environmental education that is accepted and valued throughout the European territory (EPEE, 2005, p. 4).

The EPEE (2005) is in fact designed in such a way that it can be developed by learners individually or else as part of the school curriculum. The EPEE is designed as a handbook for teachers, but it can be very easily developed by the learners on their own. The EPEE includes an introductory section giving a basic understanding of the portfolio and how it can be set up; followed by a set of guidelines and student sheets which can be used for the compilation of the portfolio. Usually the portfolio could include:

Information about the student who owns the portfolio.

A record of qualifications evidencing the learner's proficiency in specific significant learning experiences, including a resume of learning experiences and a record of certificates and diplomas.

An updateable record of how, why and where the learner learned what s/he knows. This enables the student to reflect on needs and objectives, learning experiences and current level of competence.

Samples of the owner's work that evidence his/her competence. This section includes a number of artefacts which show the various skills and competencies of the owner of the portfolio. A variety of different artefacts can be included so that students can show their different talents through different media.

The teacher's evaluation of the student's competencies.

The student's reflection about the learning outcomes (EPEE, 2005, p. 5).

The design of the EPEE therefore fulfils the criteria that usually guide the design of portfolios in different areas. Namely that it includes a variety of evidence and confirms that the student has demonstrated the key skills in a variety of contexts and on different occasions. "The evolving picture of the student's development is captured in the portfolio and can be used as the focus for regular review between tutor and student or to enable the student to self-evaluate for the improvement of learning" (Klenowski, 2002, p. 23). It also provides students engaged in environmental education programs with the opportunity to learn how to reflect on their work and on the competencies they have gained. This enables them to refine the skills and competencies such as problem-solving, communication, and working with others which form the basis of any environmental education program. These reflections are important because they give students a voice in defining their work. Through its design to incorporate both evidence of competence as well as reflection on learning, the EPEE also focuses on the process of learning. As stated by Klenowski (2002), "the portfolio is not in itself the end. The associated assessment and pedagogical practices and processes help to develop successful learning. Learning occurs, as a consequence of these processes, beyond the submission of a portfolio of work" (p. 4). The EPEE as described in the handbook (2005):

…can become an essential tool in the assessment of environmental education programmes. They (the portfolios) can be used to provide snapshots of the learning journey of a student grappling with environmental issues. They are windows not only into the knowledge gained by the students, but also into the processes, the dilemmas and debates that make students aware of environmental issues. Furthermore, they make the students more aware of themselves both as learners as well as responsible citizens who are sensitive to the environment and show greater responsibility, motivation and commitment towards sustainable development (p. 8).

Evaluation of EPEE

The EPEE was eventually trialled and implemented in the different partner countries of the TEPEE Network. The experiences of the members of the scientific committee were evaluated through a number of questionnaires. Questionnaires were used in order to obtain more information about the experience of the members of the scientific committee with the implementation of EPEE. Questionnaires were chosen as they provided better access to the partner members as they all came from different European countries. Two questionnaires were prepared and then distributed by email first mid-way through the project in July 2004 and then at the end of the project in February 2006. The questionnaires included open-ended questions which focused mainly on the experience of the partner members with the introduction of EPEE, the benefits of the portfolios and any difficulties they had come across in its implementation. The questions chosen were open ended questions so as to obtain as much information as possible from the respondents by providing them with the opportunity to express their views without limiting them to one word answers. The dangers of electronically generated text as pointed out by Marcus (1994) is that text-mediated communication is faceless and the writer is embedded within a virtual reality. However, the external evaluator had met all the members of the scientific committee during a TEPEE conference held in Malta and in Italy during which the importance of their honesty and transparency in the answering of the questionnaires was stressed. Like Punch (1994) all the members of the scientific committee were assured that their names would be kept confidential and that anything that they would like to disclose would be presented in a general evaluation. The external evaluator established a relationship of trust with the participants and following Griffiths (1998) tried to work on the principles of equal respect and appreciation of every individual and of the work carried out by the whole team. She did not place herself in a position of power but rather worked together with the team as a colleague. The first questionnaire was sent to 10 members of the scientific committee and 8 partners completed the questionnaire. The second questionnaire was again sent to 10 members of the scientific committee and only 5 responded to the questionnaire.

EPEE: The way forward in Environmental Education

The members of the scientific committee who responded to the questionnaires all indicated that the development of EPEE as an assessment tool which could be used across different European countries was one of the major achievements of the TEPEE network. As stated by one member of the scientific committee:

I personally think that the portfolio is a very good tool that would help educators to evaluate the level of environmental education that a particular learner has reached. In fact the idea was gladly accepted by a large number of teachers…

In one country the portfolio was so successful that:

Everyone wants the portfolio…it is a useful handbook for teachers and students not only for environmental education. It is an important document to have in one's library…

The major success of the EPEE is attributed to the fact that individuals from different countries could come together and together develop an assessment tool for the evaluation of competence in environmental education which could be used transnationally. All members who responded to the questionnaire were in agreement about this. In the words of one member:

The competence based model for evaluation proposed in the TEPEE is in fact a reference book in which environmental concepts are shared by everyone involved. It provides not only a reference system but a common language and a mutual understanding of concepts.

This was also expressed by another member of the scientific committee who states:

...Even if the schools which teach environmental education are all different and are found in different countries...we managed to produce something which is common and can be used in all the different schools...

Major Difficulties encountered in the implementation of EPEE

One of the major difficulties encountered in the implementation of the EPEE was the acceptance of a new model of educational assessment within a traditional assessment framework. Portfolio assessment places new demands on teachers and school. "These demands relate to teacher and student time - professional development time to create new materials and lessons, classroom time to produce and refine portfolio pieces, and scoring time to assess the quality of student work" (Chetcuti & Grima, 2001, p. 34). When these issues are not resolved teachers may find difficulties in actually implementing the portfolio. As stated by one respondent:

…when teachers tried to implement the portfolio in the narrow context of their educational system…they couldn't and hence they failed to continue with the evaluation exercise. The portfolio needs to be backed up by an educational system that values this kind of evaluation tool…

Similarly, in another partner country, the implementation of EPEE was not initially met with enthusiasm:

There is unanimous feeling that it is going to be rather difficult to institutionalize the portfolio as an overall tool for assessment of environmental competencies. The implementation of the portfolio inside the schools is mainly connected to work teams whose interests lie within the domains of projects/activities approaching environmental education in general and to practitioners interested in evaluation.

The major factor determining the successful implementation of EPEE is the enthusiasm and motivation of individual teachers. Similar resistance to portfolio assessment was also observed in the introduction of a Professional Development Portfolio in the Faculty of Education, University of Malta (Chetcuti, Murphy & Grima, 2006). As observed by the authors of this study the successful implementation of portfolios (even if in a different context) "depends for its success on individual's feelings about the value and need for the proposed change, their feelings about their position in relation to it, and their evaluation of the effectiveness of the innovation in meeting the needs" (Chetcuti, Murphy & Grima, 2006, p. 106). The schools which were successful in implementing EPEE managed to engage the teachers in their schools and convinced them of the value of EPEE. As stated by one member of the scientific committee:

Some schools have succeeded in engaging a whole team of teachers while others are dependent on driving spirits that are not discouraged by the complementary amount of work it represents to adapt the portfolio to the work environment and the age group they work with.

Another difficulty with the implementation of EPEE was the introduction of new skills and competencies which students had to learn in order to be able to compile their portfolio. This is no easy task and students need to acquire new skills (Klenowski, 2002). Sweet (1993) suggests that students are ill-prepared to carry out work that is required of a portfolio. They need to learn how to reflect, how to self-assess, how to dialogue with teachers and peers and how to interpret levels of competence and success criteria. As described by one respondent:

Teachers were somewhat surprised by the lack of initiative of students. This was very obvious with regard to self-evaluation; a matter that students are not used to deal with in the way it is for-seen to happen in the portfolio.

Other problems mentioned by the respondents who participated in the study were the problem of language and using a language which is at the level of the target group involved in the environmental education program. Since EPEE was developed in relation to different European countries, it seems to cater for one level of students and runs across different groups of students using a common language which might not be easily comprehended by students with reading and writing difficulties:

The weaknesses mentioned refer to the need to adapt the language to the target group.

As is always the case with the introduction of new methods of assessment, one factor which is always mentioned as a difficulty is the resources. One important factor for teachers is the time taken to implement portfolio assessment, the time taken to select material, reflect, give feedback and interact with students regarding their progress. As stated by one member who participated in the study:

The working circumstances of the teachers are different in European countries and therefore the main obstacle to a broad implementation of the portfolio is the substantial workload to which teachers are subjugated.

Stetcher (1998) argues that this is in fact one of the major negative aspects of portfolios, since they place additional burdens on teachers in the form of time, staff development, instructional preparation and scoring.

EPEE as a learning tool

The members of the scientific committee who participated in the study suggest that the major success of EPEE, when implemented in the schools, was the way in which it helped individuals to take ownership of their own learning and the opportunity it gives learners to be actively involved in their own learning. As stated by one member:

Those who have used the portfolio have found it quite useful and are now using it (or parts of it). The major plus of the portfolio is that it tangibly provides an opportunity for the learner to be directly involved in her/his learning and eventually it will also provide the teacher (and the learner) a clear indication of the whole journey that the learner went through…

This reflects the focus of the portfolio as a learning process. It provides individuals with the opportunity to give emphasis to personal achievement and development and enables individuals to review experiences and plan for future learning (Paczuska and Turner, 1997). The portfolio can be used in a formative way to help students reflect on their learning process, understand their strengths and weaknesses, dialogue with the teacher or with peers about their performance and set targets for themselves (Richert, 1990).

In the countries in which EPEE was trialled the portfolio was seen however as a complementary tool to learning and assessment and not as something which can stand on its own and be used solely in the evaluation of students. In the words of one member:

In some cases positive comments have been forwarded on the usefulness of the materials in given circumstances (project activities). Project work allows both students and educators to set up partial goals that are easier to evaluate by means of a portfolio methodology than curricular activities in general. It was therefore proposed that the portfolio be seen as a complementary tool to be used in particular circumstances...

The main strength of the portfolio was that it provides a holistic picture of the small bits and pieces of competence which students are engaged with in an environmental education program. Since most of such programs are cross-curricular, the EPEE helps anyone looking at the portfolio obtain a complete and holistic picture of the competencies gained by the owner of the portfolio. The portfolio can be used to represent "the holistic and interdisciplinary nature of environmental education" (Tal, 2005, p. 595). In one of the partner countries:

By moving from specific aspects of knowledge to the building of conceptual understanding, the trial phase of the portfolio was seen as a process that should contribute to improving assessment methods and to encouraging multi-sensory approaches to evaluation.

The way forward

Despite the many limitations outlined above, the EPEE was seen to be successful by all the members of the scientific committee who participated in the study. In their view, it can act as a pilot project for the implementation of portfolios as an assessment tool in environmental education in conjunction with more traditional methods of assessment. The enthusiasm of individual teachers can act as a catalyst to bring about change in assessment practices in environmental education. As stated by a member of the scientific committee:

The portfolio with all its weaknesses and strong sides, speaks for itself in the educational field. The potential for broad implementation is transparent, but practitioners need to be given the right conditions for implementation, all under the assumption that there is a will to give the product a fair chance of becoming at least one of the tools for evaluation that always will be available in the toolbox.

Discussion and Conclusions

The main lesson learnt from EPEE is that teachers and educators can in fact come together to develop curricular and assessment material in a process which is enriching for all those involved. The need for innovative assessment tools in environmental education is also realistic and EPEE has provided a basic model on which competence and certification can be built. However, the benefits of EPEE cannot be gained unless the teachers believe in it, unless the students believe in it and unless there is backing and provision of resources from educational authorities and governments. This can only be brought about by professional training of teachers and all those involved in the process.

The introduction of portfolio assessment in environmental education offers the possibility of providing evidence of competence in an area which is spread over different subject areas, takes place both inside as well as outside of the classroom and involves the acquisition of attitudes and values apart from knowledge. Environmental education is not learning about a subject but actually learning about a way of life. Environmental education provides a basis for living on this Earth in a less destructive, more peaceful, equitable, and sustainable ways. It helps to empower young people to think for themselves, develop standards for ethical and moral life choices, be better citizens, create more caring families and communities, preserve our natural habitat, and live more emotionally and spiritually satisfying lives (Pace, 2003). Environmental education is about developing a personal identity and a community identity. Within such a framework learning is bound up with identity construction (Lave and Wenger, 1991). It takes place within a social setting and involves "understanding and participation in on-going activity" (Lave, 1996, p. 9).

A major objective of environmental education as outlined by Tal (2005) drawing on reports from UNESCO-UNEP and the North American Association for environmental education, is "encouraging learners to be involved in their environment by posing questions, looking for relevant information, critiquing decision-making processes and participating in such processes. Environmental educators aim at fostering in students an appreciation of the environment, and an understanding of their relationship with it and their responsibility for its future" (p. 576). Within such a context and in order to achieve such an objective we need to take into consideration the idea that classrooms and environmental education communities are also social settings and "we can no longer omit what students bring to classrooms as a consequence of their participation in a myriad of social contexts" (Ivinson and Murphy, 2003, p. 91). Environmental education creates "a unique learning context" (Hodson, 1998, p.83). Building on this, it stands to reason that assessment practices in environmental education need to also take into consideration what Elwood and Murphy (2002) describe as the "social impact" of assessment. This requires a shift in our way of thinking and what Pryor and Crossouard (2008) describe as an important "discursive shift enabling a move from a notion of learning as a primary process of storing and reproducing knowledge towards its broader conceptualisation as a process of coming to know in different situations" (p. 3). This is the shift which is described by the participants of the study as being absolutely necessary for the successful implementation of portfolios in environmental education, and which has been experienced in the implementation of EPEE.

As argued by Tal (2005) this discourse is still not very common in environmental education literature. Although it is widely acknowledge that learning in environmental education depends on previous knowledge and perceptions of the learners, takes place within a social context and involves sharing of ideas thoughts and actions and that assessment practices are based on these views of learning, "the environmental education literature discusses the question of 'what to teach/assess' rather than the 'how to' question. Discussing what learning means and what exactly is the preferred type of learning is still uncommon" (Tal, 2005, p. 577). The development and implementation of EPEE suggests the need for the shift in discourse in environmental education and the need for greater focus on the way in which students come to know environmental education and how tutors can assess the path and process of this learning. This is a gap which requires further research and more in depth studies about learning and assessment in environmental education are required.

EPEE suggests that portfolios can actually be used as a learning and assessment tool. It can trace the development of a learner's Environmental awareness and it can attest the learner's actions and involvement in putting into action what they have learnt. It is difficult to assess a student's environmental values through traditional modes of assessment but a portfolio can show through the various artefacts particular initiatives and projects in which the learner was involved, the change in attitudes and values as the learner proceeds through an environmental education program, and the involvement with community and the contribution to the community in terms of the environment. "We become who we are through participating in the communities around us in ways that are constantly negotiated and renegotiated. Learning and Identity are therefore inseparable" (Pryor and Croussard, 2008, p. 9). In environmental education this is very important and one objective is to actually change views and perceptions about the environment and providing individuals with the skills necessary to bring about changes in their individual and community life. As stated by Lave and Wenger (1991), "learning implies becoming a different person and involves the construction of identity" (p. 53). The environmental education portfolio can actually represent the "narrative text" (Pryor and Croussard, 2008, p. 9) of an individual's personal identity with regards to the environment. The environmental education portfolio (or narrative text) can work powerfully to shape an individual's sense of self in ways that can become self-confirming (Eccleston and Pryor, 2003). These texts are constantly changing, need to be constantly reviewed and reconstructed. Positions and relations within the interactions between the learners and tutors need to be constantly negotiated and renegotiated. The reflective process encouraged within the environmental education portfolio can act as "a space where students can narrate into being new identities through their collaborative production of different texts"....the portfolio... "might thus act as a means whereby learning activities become relevant to students' desired identities and futures" (Pryor & Crossouard, 2008, p. 16).

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