The success of the global Eco-schools program is dependent on the quality of its teachers who often struggle with their own sense of capacity and agency as they meet requirements not only of the program, but also their local educational contexts. Negotiation of these sometimes competing demands can profoundly affect teachers’ senses of identity and agency. Postcolonialism, with its focus on challenging everyday effects of power, offers an innovative lens to the investigation of teacher identity and self-perceptions of capacity and agency in environmental education. My research draws explicitly on postcolonial theory as a way of unpacking a politics of identity. It provides a telling case study of Eco-schools teachers in South Africa and their adoption, negotiation and resistance of different teacher identities made available through Eco-schooling policies and practices. I describe my methodology as a Postcolonial Discourse Analysis drawing on both postcolonial and post-structural theory. In order to explore how Eco-schooling identities are negotiated in South Africa, I analysed international and South African Eco-schools policies, publications and curriculum resources. I also interviewed Eco-schools teachers about their experiences of the program. The postcolonial discourse analysis framework I developed illuminated insights into the kinds of teacher identities that were and weren’t made available in global and local contexts. The results showed that there are strong global discourses that that shape teacher identities in Eco-Schools such as those that construct teachers as environmental managers, action facilitators, project managers, environmental auditors and entrepreneurs, but in South Africa there are equally strong local teacher identities made available. These can often be negative and disempowering racialized identities such as underperforming, incompetent, privileged or racist environmental educators. In discussing the results, I show how Eco-schools teachers are both taking up and resisting dominant discourses available across these global and local arenas and creating new hybrid identities that offer new spaces for teacher agency. Postcolonial discourse analysis has provided an insight into the ways South African Eco-schools teachers are engaging with Eco-schools to displace local racialized representations with more positive hybrid teacher identities that embody stronger senses of environmental and educational agency. These insights into identity negotiations are significant in helping build broader understandings around agency in environmental educators particularly at the global/local interface.
8th World Environmental Education Congress (WEEC): Planet and People - how can they develop together?, Gothenburg, Sweden 29 June - 2 July
Proceedings of the 8th World Environmental Education Congress /