Expanding our understanding of the knowledge-action process following environmentally-based study abroad programs
Penland, Jonathan Stephen
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In this ethnographic case study, I focused on the research question: Why do some people holding pro-environmental beliefs take action, while other people holding pro-environmental beliefs, who were apparently exposed to the same or similar information, do not take action? I examined the knowledge-action process in participants that completed study abroad programs at UGA Costa Rica. I surveyed 76 participants in nine study abroad programs during a full calendar year and conducted 20 interviews. The study produced six findings. First, that a majority of participants held pro-environmental beliefs. Secondly, that a majority took limited action following study abroad by increasing their recycling, buying green products, and reducing their energy footprint. Half tried to influence friend and family to do the same. Thirdly, participants considered themselves environmentally responsible but American consumer-driven lifestyle limited their options. Fourthly, when knowledge-action gaps existed, participants mentioned limited time, resources, and power as causal factors. Fifthly, social group pressure and societal patterns strongly influenced whether participants took action. Sixthly, the examination of both internal and contextual factors increased our understanding of the knowledge-action process.