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A Needs Assessment of Conservation Educators within the Department of Conservation

The Department of Conservation (DOC) is the government body that is responsible for conserving Aotearoa/New Zealand’s natural and historic heritage. Although education has not been a primary part of what DOC does, the organisation participates in education in a variety of ways. In order to coordinate and strategize their involvement in education, a new policy has been put in place. This policy, outlined in the National Education Strategy 2010-2030 aims to set the intentions and objectives for education at DOC. A companion to this, the National Education Strategy Implementation Plan, provides some guidance on how goals may be achieved. This emphasises DOC educators’ work in partnership with teachers, which may represent a change in how DOC staff have worked in the past. Since the recent coordination of education at DOC may be different to the way some staff work, a needs assessment of DOC educators’ professional support requirements was called for. Understanding what professional development, support and resources DOC educators need could allow for effective professional support to be put in place. Having adequate professional support could have an ongoing influence on DOC educators’ ability to achieve DOC’s outcomes. Non-formal environmental educators, such as those working at DOC, are key players in environmental education/education for sustainability (EE/EfS). This group of educators have historically been engaged by formal educators to deliver EE/EfS into their classrooms, and in addition, some scholars have claimed that much of what occurs to educate people about the environment is in the non-formal setting. Non-formal educators need considerable professional support; including professional development, organisational support and resources to do their jobs and see outcomes are achieved. This thesis was conducted as an interpretive, mixed methods study directed at understanding what professional development, support and resources DOC educators working in education need to do their jobs. Methods for data collection included document analysis, interviews and a survey. Document analysis of key DOC education documents as well as interviews with national education staff allowed for context to be understood regarding the current factors influencing education and educators at DOC. In order to get a sense of DOC educators’ beliefs and opinions about education and the work they are doing, a survey was conducted with DOC staff who self-identified as educators. The data generated from the survey was further elucidated by interviews with DOC educators. The findings of the study revealed that while there is a clearly articulated approach to education at DOC as well as a general level of acceptance among DOC educators, organisational support is needed to help staff understand DOC’s role in education and how to practically implement that into work. DOC educators indicated that they need greater support in order to authentically incorporate Māori views into conservation education, work with teachers and understand EE/EfS best practice. In addition, while DOC’s education policy was put in place to get higher quality outcomes, it will require a substantial amount of time to implement. Time was found to be a resource that DOC educators needed more of. In order to move forward in education, DOC educators need adequate and on-going professional development to increase skills and knowledge. In addition, organisational support and networks are needed as well as a reasonable allotment of time in order to uphold what is being asked of them.
Type of thesis
Bianchi, V. (2016). A Needs Assessment of Conservation Educators within the Department of Conservation (Thesis, Master of Education (MEd)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/10519
University of Waikato
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