Teachers' stories of environmental education: blurred boundaries of professionalism, identity and curriculum

  • Seyoung Hwang

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


This study uses narrative inquiry to contribute to ways of valuing and utilising teachers’ personal narratives as tools for understanding their thinking and knowing in relation to the environment and environmental education, and for critically examining and challenging dominant narratives and discourses of education and the environment in school education. The research develops teachers’ stories as the main focus of inquiry and data, with the understanding that teachers’ stories articulate the dynamics and interactions between discourses and practices that constitute teachers’ thinking and experiences of environmental education. Based on life-historical and focus group interviews with eleven secondary school teachers in Korea, the inquiry also develops novel ways of understanding and analysing teacher narratives about environmental education, in three parts. As an introductory part of the analysis, five teachers’ short stories are presented via framings of their plots (“vision”) and key narrative themes, with a focus on the teacher’s own ways of making sense of their environment-related experiences through blurring the boundaries of personal and professional identities. Two subsequent chapters develop a critical investigation into their discursive practices, illustrating the blurring of boundaries in professionalism and curriculum, through which the teachers’ environmental education can create cracks and ruptures in school education. Narrative analysis of three teacher groups – science, humanities, and environment teachers - contributes to an examination of the tensions in arguing for ‘environmental education teachers’ professionalism within the institutional context of schooling in Korea. Finally, analysis of teachers’ curriculum repertoires, via six topics – alternative energy, environmental issues, health and ‘well-being’, biotechnology issues, outdoor education, and green education - provides an examination of the contingencies and complexities in the processes of teachers’ pedagogical rendering of cultural narratives of science and environmental issues. The study utilises narrative-discursive approaches to teachers’ thinking and practice. Teacher narratives are located alongside other narratives of teachers, to elucidate the meanings of personal narratives as ‘small’ stories and explore their role in critiquing surrounding, ‘larger’ institutional and cultural narratives, including hero and exemplary teacher discourses, by opening up discursive spaces for alternative meanings of professionalism and curriculum. The study also includes a discussion of how teacher learning can be understood and facilitated by using teacher narratives as vehicles for examining the nature of teacher action, and in so doing, argues that school environmental education can be a catalyst for such teacher learning.
Date of Award1 Jan 2008
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorAlan Reid (Supervisor)

Cite this