Live What You Teach & Teach What You Live: Student Views on the Acceptability of Teachers’ Value-Related Statements about Sustainability and Climate Change

  • Gregor Torkar
Keywords: Sustainable development, Climate change, University education, Environmental education, Teaching, Values


This paper presents the results of a survey among pre-service and inservice students of pre-school education and students of environmental sciences on the acceptability of value-laden statements made by their teachers on issues of sustainable development and climate change. Fifteen statements were provided, and students had to choose among the options »acceptable statement«, »unacceptable statement« and »cannot  decide«. The questionnaire was completed by 139 students from two universities in Slovenia. The results show that the students expect their teachers to promote the principles of sustainable development. The majority of students considered any teacher’s statement that would cast doubt on the cause or the necessity to act against climate change to be unacceptable. Teacher’s statements emphasising global issues that have, or could have, a direct impact on developed countries (e.g. climate change) received higher support than those global questions that more heavily impact underdeveloped or developing countries (e.g. poverty, child labour, access to natural resources). In the conclusion, it is emphasised that teachers should assist students in developing their own moral positions on complex issues such as sustainable development and climate change. Structured discussion techniques, such as a panel discussion, forum and debate, should be regularly and carefully implemented into lectures at the university level.


Download data is not yet available.


Agenda 21, United Nations (1992). Retrieved May 9 2012 from:

Clayton, S., & Myers, G. (2009). Conservation Psychology: understanding and promoting human care for nature. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell.

Dewey, J. (1997). How we think. Boston: DC Heath & Co. New York: Dover Publications Inc.

Dietz, T., Fitzgerald, A., & Shwom, R. (2005). Environmental values. Annual Review of Environmental Resources, 30, 335–372.

Jacobson, S. K., McDuff, M. D., & Monroe, M. C. (2006). Conservation education and outreach techniques. New York: Oxford University Press, Inc.

Karp, D. G. (1996). Values and their effect on pro-environmental behavior. Environment and Behaviour, 28(1), 111–133.

Kollmuss, A., & Agyeman, J. (2002). Mind the gap: why do people act environmentally and what are the barriers to pro-environmental behaviour? Environmental Education Research, 8(3), 239–260.

Korfiatis, K. J. (2005). Environmental education and the science of ecology: exploration of an uneasy relationship. Environmental Education Research, 11(2), 235–248.

Krasko, G. L. (2004). This Unbearable Boredom of Being: A crisis of meaning in America. New York: iUniverse.

Mulder, K. F. (2010). Don’t preach. Practice! Value laden statements in academic sustainability education. International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education, 11(1), 74–85.

Nordlund, A. M., & Garvill, J. (2002). Value structures behind pro-environmental behavior. Environment and Behavior, 34(6), 740–756.

Olson, E. C., Bowman, M., & Roth, R. (1984). Interpretation and non-formal environmental education in natural resources management. Journal of Environmental Education, 15(4), 6–10.

Palmer, J. (1995). Influences of pro-environmental practices. In J. Palmer, W. Goldstein, & A. Curnow (Eds.), Planning education to care for the earth (pp. 3–8). Gland, Switzerland & Cambridge: IUCN.

Palmer, J., & Neal, P. (1994). The Handbook of Environmental Education. London: Routledge.

Raskin, P., Banuri, T., Gallopín, G., Gutman, P., Hammond, A. et al. (2002). Great Transition: The Promise and Lure of the Times Ahead. Boston: Stockholm Environment Institute.

Rokeach, M. (1973). The Nature of Human Values. New York: Free Press.

Prokop, P., Kubiatko, M., & Fančovičová, J. (2008). Slovakian Pupils’ Knowledge of, and Attitudes toward, Birds. Anthrozoös, 21(3), 221–235.

Schultz, P. W., Gouveia, V. V., Cameron, D. L., Tankha, G., Schmuck, P., & Franek, M. (2005). Values and their relationship to environmental concern and conservation behavior. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 36(4), 457–475.

Schultz, P. W., & Zelezny, L. (1999). Values as predictors of environmental attitudes: evidence for consistency across 14 countries. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 19(3), 255–265.

Schwartz, S. H. (1992). Universals in the content and structure of values: Theoretical advances and empirical tests in 20 countries. In M. P. Zanna (Ed.), Advances in Experimental Social Psychology (pp. 1–65). San Diego: Academic Press.

Selby, D. (2007). As the heating happens: Education for Sustainable Development or Education for Sustainable Contraction? International Journal of Innovation and Sustainable Development, 2(3–4), 249–267.

Thøgersen, J., & Ölander, F. (2002). Human values and the emergence of a sustainable consumption pattern: A panel study. Journal of Economic Psychology, 23, 605–630.

Torkar, G. (2009). Učiteljeve vrednote in njihov odnos do okolja in varstva narave [Teacher’s values and relationship with environment and nature protection]. Didactica Slovenica – Pedagoška obzorja, 24(1), 97–108.

Torkar, G. (2010). How to set a good example to pupils?: Teachers’ purpose in life and behavioural intentions to protect nature. In S. Dolinšek (Ed.), XIV. IOSTE Socio-cultural and human values in science and technology education: proceedings. Symposium, International Organization for Science and Technology Education, June 13–18 2010, Bled, Slovenia. Ljubljana: Institute for Innovation and Development of University.

Torkar, G., Mohar, P., Gregorc, T., Nekrep, I., & Hönigsfeld Adamič, M. (2010). The conservation knowledge and attitudes of teenagers in Slovenia toward the Eurasian Otter. International Journal of Environmental and Science Education, 5(3), 341–352.

Volk, T. L., & MacBeth, B. (1998). Environmental literacy in the U.S.: What should be...what is...getting from here to there. Rock Springs, GA: North American Association for Environmental Education.

von Blottnitz, H. (2006). Promoting active learning in sustainable development: experiences from a 4th year chemical engineering course. Journal of Cleaner Production, 14(9–11), 916–923.

Wals, A. E. J. (2007). Social learning towards a more sustainable world. Principles, perspectives, and praxis. Wageningen: Wageningen Academic Publishers.