Zoos and their role in changing knowledge, skills, behaviour, values and attitudes

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“Education is what survives when
what has been learned has been forgotten”.
– B.F. Skinner –


The purpose of this study is to develop a model for an effective zoo Conservation Education programme by means of comparatively evaluating the Conservation Education Programmes of the National Zoological Gardens of South Africa (NZG), the Uganda Wildlife Education Centre (UWEC), and Zoo Negara, Malaysia.
This chapter first of all deals with identifying a theoretical framework on which this research will be based. What determines human behaviour, and which factors play a role in pro-environmental behaviour are discussed. Thereafter, behavioural models and pro-environmental behaviour theories, as well as the learning theories that are used in the zoo programmes as a means of facilitating pro-environmental behaviour, namely social constructivism and experiential learning, are discussed. The researcher adapted the Pro-environmental Behaviour Model of Kollmuss and Agyeman (2002:257) as a theoretical framework for this study.
The mixed-methods research design was used in this study, and concurrent triangulation is the strategy used for the collection of the data. To start off, the nature of mixed-methods research, as well as the philosophical assumptions on the knowledge claims is elaborated upon. The researcher developed a visual model of the mixed-methods strategy for this study. The methods used to collect the data, the research instruments, the sampling techniques, data analyses, the validity and reliability for both the quantitative and qualitative sections of the study are explained in detail.
The results that the quantitative study was designed to provide, is that of benchmarking the NZG’s Conservation Education programmes against those of other international zoos, while the qualitative study aimed to povide the criteria for a successful Conservation Education programme. The interpretation and integration of the data will result in a model for an effective zoo Conservation Education programme. The interpretation and integration of the data are discussed in Chapter 5.
The delineation and limitations of the study, as well as the ethical considerations are discussed towards the end of this chapter.

The research paradigm

“Teaching We meet awkwardly.
I invite you to walk.
I find you dancing.”
– Jeff Astley –
As described in Chapter 2, it is clear that the greatest threat to the sustainability of wild things and wild places and the health of the environmental is the consequence of the behaviour of humans. Therefore, the solution for many of our environmental problems and the sustained existence of biodiversity lie in changing the way we think and behave (Balmford & Cowling, 2006:692; Crowther, 2011:2; Lichfield & Foster, 2009:6; Rockström & Karlberg, 2010:257; Schultz, 2011:1080). Education presents our best chance of promoting and securing the values and behaviour which sustainable development implies (Hungerford & Volk, 1990:267; United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, 2007:16). However, there is a need for transformative education, namely education that helps to bring about the fundamental changes demanded by the challenges of sustainability. Ensuring sustainability depends on developing more caring relationships between people and nature, as well as enabling environmentally and socially responsible behaviour (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, 2007:16-17).
The IUCN and Tbilisi definitions of Environmental Education, as well as the Tbilisi Principles of Environmental Education, are often stated within the behaviourist paradigm (Schulze, 2005:63). This was discussed in Chapter 2, section 2.4.2. Furthermore, zoo Conservation Education programmes attempt to change the learners’ knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values and ultimately, their behaviour, as was discussed in Chapter 2, section 2.8.
Consequently, the theories used as basis for this study are those that attempt to clarify a change in human behaviour. However, the researcher acknowledges the fact that numerous theoretical frameworks have been developed to explain the discrepancies between knowledge, attitudes and pro-environmental behaviour, for example pro-social theories, altruism, empathy and community social marketing. Furthermore, different learning theories underpin the learning approach that was used in the Conservation Education programmes that were evaluated in this study to try and ensure a behavioural change, namely social constructivism and experiential learning.

Models and theories of behaviour

“Is not this poor child without knowledge, strength, or wisdom, entirely at your mercy? Are you not the master of his environment so far as it affects him? Cannot you make of him what you please?
His work and play, his pleasure and pain, are not, unknown to him, under your control? No doubt he ought only to do what he wants, but he ought to want to do nothing but what you want him to do.
He should never take a step you have not foreseen,
nor utter a word you could not foretell.”
– Plato’s instruction to the tutor in Emile – Steinberg –
Behaviourism was first recognized in the early 1920’s, and is so called because it attempts to reduce all of man’s activity, including his thinking, feeling and willing to the level of observable behaviour (Kolesnik, 1970:12-13). It attempts to explain human behaviour in physical terms, mainly as conditioned responses. It is also called ‘positivism’, due to its ideal that concepts (and the proclamations to which they are linked) should be derived from the evidence of observation. According to this view, by observing people’s behaviour we are able to formulate laws concerning behaviour. This, in turn, enables us to envisage, and even control human behaviour (Schulze, 2005:61). Behaviourism still forms the basis of many of the teaching-learning actions in modern classrooms (Higgs & Smith, 2000:52).
The founder of behaviourism is John B. Watson (Kolesnik, 1970:12; MacMillan, 1973:15). His work is classic in the field of behaviour modification, since it was the first time that a human emotional reaction was conditioned in an experimental setting.
He concluded that an emotional response can be conditioned, that it can be transferred to stimuli other than the initial stimulus which evoked the emotion, that the emotion would last for a period of time, and that it can be unlearned (MacMillan, 1973:15). It was believed that the effectiveness of the conditioning process could be increased by a clear and precise statement of objectives, and this would lead to a schedule of learning that would minimise error and choice. This reflected Watson’s much criticized claim that a controlled environment is one in which a child could be engineered into any kind of desired person (Higgs & Smith, 2000:5). However, his theory has undergone considerable modifications since it was first developed.
B.F. Skinner (1904-1990) personalized behaviourism and attempted a scientific approach to the study of human behaviour. According to Skinner’s theory, human behaviour is grounded in the results of our actions. He attempted to predict human behaviour (Higgs & Smith, 2000:58-59). Later Thorndike formulated his ‘connectionism theory’, according to which, learning is the formation and strengthening of bonds or connections between stimuli and responses (Kolesnik, 1970:196-197). Combinations of revised versions of Watson’s theory of behaviourism and Thorndike’s connectionism theory have resulted in ‘neo-behaviourism’ (Kolesnik, 1970:199-200). Neo-behaviourists are united in their belief that behaviour which appears to be purposeful is the consequence of some stimuli being more potent than others in a particular situation, thus causing a person to react in one way rather than in another (Kolesnik, 1970:199-200).
The strongest criticism against the behaviourism theory is that it claims to be able to control and manipulate human behaviour, and it thus sees humans as objects, and quantifies human behaviour. It ignores the fact that humans have a free will and can chose whether to be controlled or not (Van den Aardweg & Van den Aardweg, 1988:29). Nevertheless, conditioning does help to explain some of the simpler forms of human learning, particularly those which are emotionally toned in nature. Also, reinforcement has positive educational implications, for it is used all the time in the form of praise, acceptance, and compliments to motivate the individual to greater heights. Behaviours that are reinforced are more likely to recur (Van den Aardweg & Van den Aardweg, 1988:29). The behaviourist approach may have positive value for Environmental Education if people’s destructive behaviour towards the environment can be changed for the better (Engleson & Yockers, 1994:62). This should, however, not be done by manipulating and controlling people (De Jager, 2004:33).
Motivating people to adopt a more environmentally-friendly lifestyle is an intricate matter, involving more than simply increasing knowledge about, and developing a positive attitude towards the environment. Different models depicting the factors that need to be addressed when seeking to create a desired change in behavior are described in section 3.2.2.

Pro-environmental behaviour theories

Also referred to as conservation behaviour, environmentally-significant behaviour and responsible environmental behaviour, pro-environmental behaviour has become the focus of much research (Smith, 2008:65). Pro-environmental behaviour is defined by Kollmuss and Agyeman (2002:240) as behaviour that consciously seeks to minimize the negative impact of one’s actions on the natural and built world. According to Bamberg and Möser (2007:15), pro-environmental behaviour is best viewed as a mixture of self-interest, for example to pursue a strategy that minimises one’s own health risk, and of concern for other people, for example the next generation, other species, or whole ecosystems.
The earliest models of pro-environmental behaviour (figure 3.1) were grounded on a linear advancement of environmental knowledge, leading to environmental awareness and attitudes. These models were soon confirmed to be wrong, since research showed that in most cases increases in knowledge and awareness do not lead to pro-environmental behaviour. However, many environmental non-governmental organisations (NGO’s) today still base their communication approaches on the assumption that more knowledge will lead to pro-environmental behaviour (Kollmuss & Agyeman, 2002:241).
Researchers who regard self-interest as the more important motive for behaviour change often rely on rational choice models, for example the Theory of Reasoned Action (Regis, 1990, in: Kollmuss & Agyeman, 2002:243). The Theory of Reasoned Action (figure 3.2) was developed by Martin Fishbein and Icek Ajzen. Their model has been the most influential attitude-behaviour model in social psychology. They developed a mathematical equation that articulated their model, which enabled researchers to conduct empirical studies (Regis, 1990, in: Kollmuss & Agyeman, 2002:243). The Theory of Reasoned Action is explicitly concerned with behaviour. However, this theory also recognizes that there are factors that limit the influence of attitude on behaviour. Therefore, the Theory of Reasoned Action predicts behavioural intention, a compromise between stopping at attitude predictions and actually predicting behaviour. Because it separates behavioural intention from behaviour, the Theory of Reasoned Action also discusses the factors that limit the influence of attitudes (or behavioural intention) on behaviour.
The Theory of Reasoned Action uses two elements, namely attitudes and norms to predict behavioural intent. Specifically, the Theory of Reasoned Action predicts that behavioural intent is created or caused by two factors, namely our attitudes and our subjective norms. Attitudes have two components. Fishbein and Ajzen (1975:5) call these, “…the evaluation and strength of a belief”. The second component influencing behavioural intent, subjective norms, also has two components, namely normative beliefs and motivation to comply. The implications of the Theory of Reasoned Action for Environmental Education are that individuals with more positive attitudes towards the environment are more likely to demonstrate pro-environmental behaviour (Halpenny, 2005:2). One of the limitations of this model is the assumption that people act rationally (Regis, 1990, in: Kollmuss & Agyeman, 2002:243).
Hines, Hungerford, and Tomera (1986:1-8) published their meta-analysis of research on responsible environmental behaviour (figure 3.3) in 1986. This model was based on Ajzen and Fishbein’s Theory of Reasoned Action (Kollmuss & Agyeman, 2002:243; Hungerford & Volk, 1990:259), and had as its aim to identify variables reliably associated with pro-environmental behaviour, as well as to determine quantitatively the strengths of these relationships (Hungerford & Volk, 1990:259; Kollmuss & Agyeman, 2002:243; Bamberg & Möser, 2007:14). Against the background of their meta-analytical results, the researchers suggested a model of environmental behaviour which sees the intention to act and the objective situational factor as direct determining factors of pro-environmental behaviour. Intention itself is viewed as summarising the interplay of cognitive variables, namely action skills, knowledge of action strategies and issues, as well as personality variables, namely attitudes, locus of control, and personal responsibility (Bamberg & Möser, 2007:15).
Kollmus and Agyeman (2002:243-244) are of the opinion that, although this model is more sophisticated than the one by Ajzen and Fishbein, the identified factors do not sufficiently explain pro-environmental behaviour, because the relationship between knowledge and attitudes, attitudes and intentions, and intentions and actual responsible behaviour, are weak. According to Kollmus and Agyeman (2002:244) Hines, et al. (1986) called these factors situational factors, and included opportunities to choose different actions, economic limitations, social pressure, and opportunities to choose different situations from. Nonetheless, this study made a strong impact on the further research on psycho-social determinants of pro-environmental behaviour. Using modern statistical methods for synthesising the results of a body of primary studies, it provided convincing empirical evidence for the use of psycho-social variables as predictors of pro-environmental behaviour. This finding encouraged many researchers to continue their research on psycho-social determinants of pro-environmental behaviours (Bamberg & Möser, 2007:15)
Hungerford and Volk (1990:264) identified critical educational components that, when implemented, can maximize the opportunities to change learner behaviour in respect of the environment.
They indicated that this can be achieved if the educational agencies -teach environmentally-significant ecological concepts, and the environmental interrelationships that exists within and between these concepts;
provide carefully designed and in-depth opportunities for the learners to achieve some level of environmental sensitivity that will promote a desire to behave in appropriate ways;
provide a curriculum that results in an in-depth knowledge of issues;
provide a curriculum that teaches the learners the skills of the analysis and investigation of issues, as well as provide the time needed for the application of these skills;
provide a curriculum that teaches the learners the citizenship skills needed for the remediation of issues, as well as the time needed for the application of these skills; and
provide an instructional setting that increases the learners’ expectancy of reinforcement for acting in responsible ways, i.e., in attempting to develop an internal locus of control in the learners.
Hungerford and Volk (1990:267) came to the conclusion that although it may be true that the awareness of issues in some cases lead to behaviour change, this is not the case in respect of pro-environmental behaviour. They indicated that if environmental issues are to become an integral part of instruction designed to change behaviour, instruction must go beyond an ‘awareness’ or ‘knowledge’ of issues. The students must be given the opportunity to develop a sense of ‘ownership’ and of ‘empowerment’ so that they may be fully capitalised in an environmental sense, and be encouraged to become responsible active citizens. The above researchers are of the opinion that pro-environmental behaviour can be developed by means of Environmental Education, but that the challenge then is to take on a new methodology (Hungerford & Volk, 1990:267). They presented a new model, illustrated in Figure 3.4, which proposed three types of antecedent variables in a causal chain leading to environmental citizenship behaviour – entry level, ownership, and empowerment variables. Each of these variables can further be divided into those that are of major importance, and those of minor importance (Smith, 2008:66).
Wals and Van der Leij (1997:51-52) criticized Hungerford and Volk’s approach to Environmental Education on grounds of the fact that it has a behaviouristic approach, and that, according to them, Hungerford and Volk’s methods represent contemporary protocols of behaviourism that they called ‘behaviourism in disguise’. Wals and Van der Leij’s (1997:51) criticism against behaviourism is that it takes on a positivism instrumental view of behaviour. They do not agree with the methods being used, namely that the world can be predicted and controlled as they see it depicted in the work of Hungerford and Volk since other factors, for example the improved understanding among people, the release of human potential and the formation of a sustainable relationship with the environment may be overlooked. They also indicate that Environmental Education should not be defined in terms of desired behavioural outcomes, namely ‘citizenship behaviours’, ‘responsible environmental behaviours’ and ‘quality of life’, as described by Hungerford and Volk (1990), since these are ill-defined concepts. They also see the intervention strategies to promote these concepts as environmental conditioning, and not as education.
Kollmuss and Agyeman (2002:249) indicate that it is not possible to give a diagrammatic representation of how pro-environmental behaviour is formed. They distinguish between the following factors that influence behaviour change, namely demographic factors, e.g., institutional, economic, social and cultural factors, and internal factors, e.g., motivation, knowledge of the environment, awareness, values, attitudes, emotions, locus of control, responsibilities, and priorities. According to Kollmuss and Agyeman (2002:249), the difficulty in defining and delimiting these different factors is due to the fact that they are mostly broadly and vaguely defined, that they interrelate, and often do not have clear boundaries. Furthermore, behaviour change need to occur at both individual and community level in order to achieve sustainability (Kollmuss & Agyeman, 2002:249). At the same time, behaviour change is influenced by many factors, including one’s upbringing or social environment, and his/her belief in the ability that he/she can bring about change (Litchfield & Foster, 2009:6-8). In a study that she did in Norway and Kentucky, Chawla (2006:59) found that positive experiences of natural areas in childhood and adolescence, and family role models were the most frequent motives for environmental activism. Other factors playing significant roles, decreasing in value, are, namely the pro-environmental values held by the family, the pro-environmental organizations, the role-models and education (Chawla, 2006:60).
Figure 3.5 indicates a model of pro-environmental behaviour, illustrating some of the factors that play a role in changing behaviour patterns to pro-environmental behaviour. This model was developed by Kollmuss and Agyeman (2002:257). The arrows in the figure indicate how the different factors influence one another, and also pro-environmental behaviour. The two narrower arrows from internal and external factors directly to pro-environmental behaviour indicate environmental actions that are taken for other than environmental reasons. The biggest positive influence on pro-environmental behaviour, indicated by the larger arrow, is achieved when internal and external factors act synergistically. The black boxes indicate possible barriers to positive influence on pro-environmental behaviour. This model lists only a few of the most important barriers. In the diagram the largest black box represents old behaviour patterns, not only for graphical reasons, since this barrier has to block all three arrows, but also since the researchers wanted to emphasise the fact that old habits form a very strong barrier that is often overlooked in the literature on pro-environmental behaviour (Kollmuss & Agyeman, 2002:257). What must further be taken into account is that the past behaviour people are already engaging in are likely to continue, and that messages received about those behaviours only serve to reinforce them as worthwhile (Smith, 2008:64). At the same time, having knowledge about current behaviour means that the most accurate predictor of future behaviour can be identified (Smith, 2008:69).
A number of studies have been done to explain the gap between the possession of environmental knowledge and environmental awareness, and displaying pro-environmental behaviour, however, no definitive explanation has been found for this gap (Kollmuss & Agyeman, 2002:239; Smith, 2008:64).
Smith (2008:68) stressed the fact that the antecedents of behaviour models are necessarily general in nature, and that their utility in understanding the impact of behaviour requests are restricted.
Smith (2008:68) indicates,
“Thus while their examination yields a better understanding of antecedents to pro-environmental behaviour, their utility to understanding the impact of specific behavioural requests are limited, possibly due to the aforementioned failure of general attitudes to predict specific behaviours. A conceptual solution to this dilemma is the idea that, for any given behaviour, individuals are in a state of more or less readiness to perform it. At one extreme, the behaviour may be completely unknown and at the other, may already be performed regularly”.
In addition, Schultz (2011:1081) mentions that efforts in respect of Conservation Education have to include a reason for action, or a motivational element. Potential motivational elements are, for example, self-interest, social responsibility and self-transcendent values. Information coupled with motivation can induce change. For the purpose of this study, the researcher would like to present a model adapted from the one by Kollmuss and Agyeman (2002:257), as depicted in figure 3.5, as a theoretical framework, including potential motivational elements, namely self-interest, social responsibility, and self-transcendent values. Figure 3.6 gives an indication of such a model.

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Learning theories

The Conservation Education programmes that form part of this study involve hands-on learning activities facilitated by a zoo educator. A change in pro-environmental behaviour is envisaged by these programmes by following methodologies that fall within the socio-constructivism and experiential learning perspectives.
Furthermore, the zoo educators assist the learners’ learning within a zone of proximal development, according to Vygotsky’s social development theory. Vygotsky argued that there is a zone of potential assisted learning that can occur above and beyond the autonomous learning potential of a learner. Learning can be assisted by a ‘more knowledgeable other’, who can provide support and guidance through the learning process (Jensen, 2011:96-97). Jensen (2011:97) furthermore argues that viewing new animals in a zoo has the potential to result in a form of cognitive disequilibrium, as theorized by Jean Piaget. According to Piaget’s theory, learning takes place when the learners are exposed to new situations that existing mental maps are not set up to process – thereby leading to cognitive ‘disequilibrium’. To re-equalize, the learner must extend his or her existing mental maps. As a result, the learners are confronted with new stimuli and zoo animals they have never seen before. If facilitated effectively by means of interpretation and education, the re-equalising process has the potential to extend the pupils’ thinking about animals (Jensen, 2011:97).
Jensen (2011:97) argues that viewing new animals in a zoo has the potential to result in a form of cognitive disequilibrium, as theorised by Piaget. Jensen came to the conclusion that the assimilation of new ideas into a learner’s existing mental map (for understanding animals and habitats) can be significantly enhanced through assistance from a more knowledgeable other, (in this case the zoo educator).
According to Jensen (2011:96-97),
“This theoretical model of zoo learning places zoo educators in the role of toolmakers, fashioning the most effective concepts and explanations possible and provisioning pupils with these concepts for them to use to leverage themselves into a higher level of learning”.


The socio-constructivism perspective regards students as active learners who are responsible for developing their knowledge in a specific social setting. Learning takes place through the learners’ experience, knowledge, habits and preferences. This understanding of learning goes back to the work by Piaget in 1954 that described knowing as a balance between what is familiar and what is novel. We organize the world by ourselves, and according to our existing knowledge and experiences we ‘construct’ our own knowledge. The term cognitive constructivism designates this perspective, which was developed further by Vygotsky. He emphasized the importance of the social context for learning, and introduced the term social constructivism (Stauffacher, Walter, Lang, Wiek & Scholtz, 2006:257).
The socio-constructivism learning perspective involves that the learners are being confronted with a problem, and are being given the opportunity to construct their specific views of the situation (Stauffacher et al., 2006:258).

List of tables
List of figures
Acronyms and abbreviations
Chapter 1: Introduction to the study
1.1 Introduction
1.2 The research problem
1.3 The aim, objectives and the research questions
1.4 Thesis statement
1.5 The research methodology
1.6 The significance of the study
1.7 The rationale for choosing the participating institutions
1.8 Definitions of the terms and concepts
1.9 Overview of the chapters
Chapter 2: Zoos and their role in changing knowledge, skills, behaviour, values and attitudes
2.1 Introduction
2.2 The loss of biodiversity
2.3 The global environmental crisis
2.4 Environmental Education, Conservation Education and Education for Sustainable Development
2.5 The history of zoos and their place in modern society
2.6 Zoos in Africa and Malaysia
2.7 The different roles of zoos
2.8 The role of zoos in changing knowledge and skills, behaviour, attitudes and values
2.9 The evaluation of Environmental Education programmes
2.10 Best practices and the social context
2.11 Report on the evaluation of Conservation Education programmes: case studies
2.12 Summary
Chapter 3: The research design
3.1 Introduction
3.2 The research paradigm
3.4 Delineations and limitations
3.5 Ethical considerations
3.6 Conclusion
Chapter 4: The results of the study
4.1 Introduction
4.2 The quantitative study
4.4 Conclusion
Chapter 5: Summary of the findings, conclusions and recommendations
5.1 Introduction
5.2 Summary of the findings
5.3 Conclusions
5.4 A model for an effective zoo Conservation Education programme: Recommendations
5.5 Suggestions for further research
5.7 Conclusion

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