An Investigation of Determinants of Early Childhood Education Teachers' Recycling Behaviors: A Turkish Sample

Şenyurt E., Olgan R.

The European Conference on Educational Research (ECER), Hamburg, Germany, 2 - 06 September 2019

  • Publication Type: Conference Paper / Unpublished
  • City: Hamburg
  • Country: Germany
  • Middle East Technical University Affiliated: Yes


WWF (2008) alerted the world citizens to realize the planet’s current status by highlighting that if today’s generation does not abandon their current way of consumption, in the near future the humankind will need two more planets like the Earth to meet their demands for consumption. As an unavoidable consequence of humans’ consumption activities, different types of wastes have been disposed to the environment at alarming rates over the years (El-Assaly & Ralph-Ellis, 2001), depending on the humans’ treatment to the world as a ‘‘natural storage’’ and ‘‘garbage can’’ (Liu, 2009). Herein, Maloney and Ward (1973) underscored that environmental drawbacks such as waste problems are rooted in educational problems, since they are created by anthropogenic factors such as negative attitudes or inappropriate behaviors toward the environment. Hence, education is regarded as a powerful tool for coping with environmental problems, performing proper behaviors, and nurturing the human-environment link (Yorek et al., 2010). Considering that attitudes, knowledge, behaviors, especially pro-environmental behaviors, are permanently adopted in early childhood period (Davis & Gibson, 2006), early years of life have an undeniable role for children in gaining necessary skills about environmental issues, and taking active role in environmental protection for a sustainable future (Davis, 2010).

Recycling has been considered as other pro-environmental behaviors’ foundation (Berger, 1997) and as a promising solution for dealing with important global problems such as climate change, pollution, and resource depletion to become a sustainable society (Worrell & Reuter, 2014). Furthermore, it supports environmental, economic, and social dimensions of sustainability by managing wastes (Bing et al., 2015). Since most of the belief systems and behaviors such as recycling are adopted during early childhood period, it is crucial to instill children with an understanding of recycling. Herein, it has been underlined that preschool teachers are lynchpin for gaining awareness to children about sustainability, and raising citizens conscious of ESD issues who can produce solutions for global problems (Elliot & Davis, 2009), because they are role models conveying their beliefs, attitudes, and values to children through their behaviors such as recycling (Salonen & Tast, 2013) for children to adopt proper beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors which affect their present and future life (Pramling-Samuelsson, 2011). Thus, investigating their recycling behaviors’ determinants is significant, especially in the Turkish context where only 15% of the collected municipal wastes can be recycled (Ministry of Environment and Urbanization, 2017), indicating that people in Turkey are not accustomed to act recycling behavior.

This study aims to scrutinize the determinants of Turkish preschool teachers’ recycling behaviors using the Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB). The TPB which centers on why humans behave in a certain way is the most widely-used theory to understand human behavior with a rational and in-depth point of view (Manfredo, 2008) with its unique constructs (beliefs, attitude, subjective norms, perceived behavioral control, intention, and behavior) in social and behavioral sciences (Ajzen, 1991). Since there are limited studies conducted with preschool teachers and inconsistent results in the extant literature about the determinants of recycling behavior (e.g. Poskus, 2015 Chu & Chiu, 2013; Wan et al., 2012; Pakpour et al., 2014; Tekkaya et al., 2011), the current study aimed to answer the following questions:

R.Q.1: In what ways each cognitive construct of the TPB (behavioral, normative, and control beliefs) associated with their corresponding psychological constructs (attitude toward recycling, subjective norms, and perceived behavioral control over recycling)?

R.Q.2: How well preschool teachers’ recycling intentions be explained by the TPB variables (attitude toward recycling, subjective norms, and perceived behavioral control over recycling)?

R.Q.3: How well preschool teachers’ recycling behaviors be explained by their perceived behavioral control and their recycling intentions?


This study is a harmony of survey and correlational research with a cross-sectional time dimension. Data are collected throughout the spring semester of 2016-2017 and fall semester of 2017-2018 academic years for nine months by 584 preschool teachers working in public schools in the nine central districts of Ankara, the capital city of Turkey. While collecting data, two instruments are utilized by the researchers. As one of the data collection tools, ‘‘Demographic Information Questionnaire’’ which includes 17 items about background information about participants including personal information and information about recycling is developed by the researchers. In addition, the researchers used the ‘‘Recycling Behavior Scale for Preschool Teachers’’. The questionnaire includes 64 items about attitude toward recycling (a=.92), behavioral beliefs (a=.87), evaluation of behavioral outcomes which is only utilized to calculate a total attitude score, subjective norms (a=.88), normative beliefs (a=.90), motivation to comply which is only utilized to calculate a total subjective norm score, perceived behavioral control (a=.75), control beliefs (a=.81), control belief strength which is only utilized to calculate a total perceived behavioral control score, intention to recycle (a=90), and recycling behavior (a=80). In this regard, a model which indicates the inter-relationships among the constructs is developed in light of the extant literature. In order to analyze the obtained data, path analysis which is a type of structural equation modelling be means of LISREL 8.8 software package program (Jöreskog & Sörbom, 2006).

Expected Outcomes

In the center of the TPB (Ajzen, 1991), the assumption is lied that psychological constructs (attitude toward behavior, subjective norms, and perceived behavioral control) are respectively determined by their corresponding cognitive salient beliefs (behavioral, normative, and control beliefs). Moreover, the participants recycling intentions are the strongest predictor of their recycling behaviors, followed by the indirect effect of their perceived behavioral control over recycling. Descriptive analyses indicated that preschool teachers’ behavioral beliefs about possible results of recycling were positive (M= 6.90, SD=.29), and their outcome evaluation regarding recycling as a strength of behavioral beliefs about recycling was important (M= 6.88, SD=.39). They parallel hold positive attitudes toward recycling (M= 6.83, SD=.41). Furthermore, descriptive statistics revealed that they were approved by their significant others for recycling (M= 4.75, SD=1.81), and their motivation to comply with normative beliefs as a normative belief strength was important (M= 6.02, SD=1.40). In a parallel way, they perceived a social pressure regarding recycling (M= 5.59, SD=1.33). In addition, they believed that there were essential parameters for them to recycle (M= 5.79, SD=.88), and their power of control over recycling as their control beliefs’ strength was important (M= 6.76, SD=.57). In a similar vein, they perceived recycling as easy to perform (M= 5.84, SD=.82). What’s more, Turkish preschool teachers reported that they were likely to recycle (M= 5.52, SD=1.15), whereas they reported that they currently performed recycling (M= 4.96, SD=1.55).