Katrina S. Rogers
Among the many strengths of higher education is the adaptability of faculty to create curricula in response to the changing needs of society. Since the 1950s, there has been a growing awareness of the consequences of modernity on natural environmental processes. This, in turn, has led to a dramatic increase in course offerings on many subjects related to the environment and sustainability, including substantial teaching and research activity in global environmental politics. Examining what is being taught in the nation’s classrooms provides an opportunity to gain insight into how college teachers are preparing students for the world they live in. One way to demonstrate the complex ways in which global environmental politics can be taught is by viewing it through the lens of Shulman’s framework, called “pedagogical content knowledge.” Derived from principles in contemporary learning theory, Shulman proposed approaching pedagogy by having teachers work through six steps: comprehension, transformation, instruction, evaluation, reflection, and new comprehension. Viewing the teaching of global environmental politics through these six steps is useful to seeing the depth and complexity of teaching in this particular subject area. Using this framework, an analysis of how college teachers have approached their course preparation shows that most professors continue to use conventional approaches to teaching. These approaches include a traditional way of teaching, mostly lecture with classroom interaction and group work and a traditional choice of content, with an emphasis on literature with western epistemological worldviews. From this examination, one can conclude that the teaching of global environmental politics can be strengthened by integrating Shulman’s framework into the classroom: setting the context; building positive social norms; emphasizing inquiry, discovery, and synthesis; and creating the possibility of transformation.