Social critique or social control: Some problems for evaluation in environmental education



Environmental education is often thought of as the branch of science education whose field of inquiry encompasses those necessarily value-laden issues of human intervention in the natural world. While this perception would be contested by those who see the origins of environmental education lying in the sociopolitical arena of community concerns about exploitation of the environment, it is true to say that environmental education and science education are commonly associated in ways that other disciplines are not, and thus it is perhaps to be expected that the dominant paradigm of evaluation in environmental education should be applied science in character. This article raises the issue of the appropriateness of applied science approaches to evaluation in environmental education. The article begins with a critique of applied science approaches to evaluation, drawing arguments from the broader field of educational evaluation. The relationship between characteristics of applied science approaches to evaluation on the one hand and the special characteristics of environmental education on the other is then explored, and the article concludes with an argument for a deliberative choice of research paradigm in environmental education.