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Earth Education Programs & Research
In the era of accountability in education, a great deal of attention has been focused on measuring impact. Far too often, very narrow definitions of achievement are being used to evaluate children, teachers and schools. This is a worldwide phenomenon that is coming under increasing criticism; it is clear that a laser focus on standardized test scores has not helped schools to improve. Programs that focus on the environ- ment, like earth education programs, have for the most part been ignored by the testing movement. While that brings a sigh of relief to those running our programs, it is also an indication of the sad lack of impor- tance that our education systems pay to the work of helping people live more harmoniously and joyously with the natural world.
While I agree that mandated, standardized testing would not be a good thing for us, the general field of environmental learning (in which I am including environmental education, education for sustainable devel- opment, outdoor education, and adventure education along with earth education) has for too long avoided the kinds of rigorous evaluation that would actually be useful. Most programs pay little attention to serious evaluation of their efforts. Satisfaction is by far the most common outcome measure in use, whether it is gathered through surveys, informal comments, or by looking at repeat participation rates. While satisfaction is certainly important, by itself it is a very weak indication of the effects of a program.
A good evaluation uses a logic model (essentially a statement about how the components of a program are designed to achieve specific outcomes), to create an evaluation plan. That plan needs to include multiple indicators at different points in time that address all of the key outcomes. Such thorough program evalua- tions are rare. They require time and resources and the help of people who know how to design and con- duct them. All of us offering programs have limited funding, and so it is a very difficult time to find the necessary money.
We have been conducting evaluations of earth education programs in several locations for many years. These evaluations have provided valu- able information to those offering the programs and to their funders. They have also helped us to learn about the impacts of earth education pro- grams. But even these have typically not included all of the evaluation components we would like because of limited funding. The best of them, however, have included a variety of types of data collection addressing different outcomes of the programs. Here is an example of a recent evaluation of one Earthkeepers program in Cyprus that represents a good mix of evaluation strategies. The full details of the evaluation can be found in an article in Studies in Educational Evaluation (see details below*), but here is a summary.
Annual Report/15

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