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Reading Nature: Developing ecological literacy through teaching
Linköping University, Department of Social and Welfare Studies.
2007 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

In this study the concept reading nature and its contribution to science education is discussed. Some scientific concepts relevant for reading nature are defined. Reading nature has to do with the ability to recognise organisms and relate them to material cycling and energy flow in the specific habitat which is to be read. It has to do with authenticity where the natural world that we face outside is the book to be read and the tools we have are our experiences from previous learning situations both in and out-ofdoors. The data in the study is based on the following student groups; student teachers, primary students in year 3-4 and secondary students in year 7-8. A group of experienced teachers have contributed with data regarding their views on reading nature as a goal in science education.

The aims of the study are to describe how the ability to read nature can develop among the different student groups and to extract critical aspects for this developing ability. The extent to which the ability to read nature can be transferred between ecosystems and the relevance of reading nature as a goal in science education is also studied.

Data was collected mainly by interviews before and after instruction. The students were interviewed outdoors and the main issues discussed in the interviews regarded the organisms and the non biological factors influencing the ecosystem, the ongoing cycles and processes in the ecosystem and finally the human influence on the ecosystem. Concept maps and video recorded field studies has supplemented the interviews in the analysis of student ability to read nature.

Prior to instruction all students found it difficult to read nature. Linking ecological theory to the authentic environment seems difficult to do. The school students followed teaching sequences aiming at developing their ability to read nature. Critical aspects for developing the ability to read nature had to do with developing an ecological language including ecological terminology as well as the naming of common organisms. An experience based ecological knowledge of a few common species was for many students a helpful link between taxonomy and systems ecology. The recognition of the morphological and behavioural characters of different functional groups together with the principles of the food pyramid model and the cycling of matter were three critical aspects guiding the reading of nature in a new ecosystem. Abstract processes such as photosynthesis and natural succession were difficult to grasp for most students and the field based instruction did not seem to support this learning. There was a strong support for reading nature as a goal in science education where the outdoor aspect of ecology was stressed and the implications for this has to do with supporting the future generation of teachers to study nature in the real context.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Institutionen för samhälls- och välfärdsstudier , 2007.
Series
Studies in Science and Technology Education, ISSN 1652-5051 ; 6
Keyword [en]
Readiing nature, Ecology, Outdoor studies, Teaching
National Category
Pedagogy
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-8921ISBN: 978-91-85715-25-1 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:liu-8921DiVA: diva2:23647
Public defence
2007-04-27, Aulan, Högskolan i Kristianstad, Kristianstad, 13:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Note
The articles in the Ph.D. thesis are published with kind permission from International Journal of Science Education, Journal of Biological Education and NorDiNa: Nordic Studies in Science Education.Available from: 2007-05-21 Created: 2007-05-21 Last updated: 2009-03-25
List of papers
1. Student-Teachers’ Ability to Read Nature: Reflections on their own learning in ecology
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Student-Teachers’ Ability to Read Nature: Reflections on their own learning in ecology
2005 (English)In: International Journal of Science Education, ISSN 0950-0693, Vol. 27, no 10, 1229-1254 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This paper addresses student-teachers' ability to read nature in a woodland habitat before and after a 10-week ecology course. Reading nature is our definition of the ability to observe, describe and explain basic ecology in the field. Data consists of field-based pre-course and post-course interviews followed up by metacognitive interviews where students analyse their own learning. A bi-dimensional coding scheme is adopted to examine the range and development of students' ability to read nature. Students find it important to know the ecology of a few key species and they recognize the importance of having learned the language of ecology — ecologish — helping them to describe and discuss ecology. Students generally recognize the excursions as key learning situations in ecology education but they give different reasons for finding excursions so important. This variation will be elaborated in the paper together with the implications for teaching ecology.

National Category
Social Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-14526 (URN)10.1080/09500690500102706 (DOI)
Available from: 2007-05-21 Created: 2007-05-21 Last updated: 2010-06-01
2. Reading New Environments: Students’: ability to generalise their understanding between different ecosystems
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Reading New Environments: Students’: ability to generalise their understanding between different ecosystems
2007 (English)In: International Journal of Science Education, ISSN 0950-0693, Vol. 29, no 1, 67-100 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This paper is based on a study of how students' read nature in different ecosystems. Its focus is on ecology and the context is outdoors. This literacy has to do with an ability to recognise organisms and relate them to material cycling and energy flow in the specific habitat that is to be read. A teaching sequence was designed in order to develop a class of secondary students' ability to read nature in a forest ecosystem. After instruction they were taken to another ecosystem, a pond where they were asked to read the new environment. The main goal was to follow to what extent they can transfer their understanding from one ecosystem to another. The study is based on recorded interviews, field work, and classroom activities, and it shows the importance of learning general patterns in nature and relating them to functional groups of organisms in an ecosystem.

Keyword
Ecology, Reading nature, Secondary students
National Category
Pedagogy
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-14527 (URN)10.1080/09500690600708543 (DOI)
Available from: 2007-05-21 Created: 2007-05-21 Last updated: 2010-06-01
3. Reading nature from a ‘bottom-up’ perspective
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Reading nature from a ‘bottom-up’ perspective
2007 (English)In: Journal of Biological Education, ISSN 0021-9266, Vol. 41, no 2, 68-75 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This paper reports on a study of ecology teaching and learning in a Swedish primary school class (age 10-11yrs). A teaching sequence was designed to help students read nature in a river ecosystem. The teaching sequence had a 'bottom up' approach, taking as its starting point a common key organism - the freshwater shrimp. From this species and its ecology, the perspective was broadened to involve studies of the interrelations between organisms and finally to the relationship between biotic and abiotic factors. A large part of the instruction took place outdoors. Students were interviewed three times during the course when they were presented with a tray full of objects (both biotic and abiotic) from the ecosystem. The students' task was to name and describe the objects and then to link them up in as many relevant ways as possible, explaining the reasons for the links. The interviews have been transcribed onto concept maps and SOLO-taxonomy was used to illustrate their developing ecological understanding. Results indicate how students related several abstract processes and correlations back to the key organism studied early in the teaching sequence.

Keyword
Concept maps, Ecological literacy, Field studies, SOLO-taxonomy
National Category
Pedagogy
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-14528 (URN)
Available from: 2007-05-21 Created: 2007-05-21 Last updated: 2010-06-01
4. Reading Nature- experienced teachers’ reflections on a teaching sequence in ecology: implications for future teacher training
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Reading Nature- experienced teachers’ reflections on a teaching sequence in ecology: implications for future teacher training
2006 (English)In: NorDiNa: Nordic Studies in Science Education, ISSN 1504-4556, Vol. 5, 67-81 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This article explores experienced primary teachers views on teaching for ‘reading nature’. The concept‘reading nature’ has to do with an ability to recognise organisms and relate them to material cyclingand energy flow in the specific habitat which is to be read. It has to do with the natural world that weface outside and the tools we have are our experiences from previous learning situations both in andout-of-doors. The teachers were asked to comment on the content of a CD-ROM with teaching sequencesfrom a primary class studying a river ecosystem. Perceptions that teachers held were found to besupportive but complex and varied regarding the possibilities and advantages of implementing thistype of teaching design in the everyday classroom. The paper finishes by identifying some implicationsfor teacher training to support fieldwork and ecological literacy in primary schools in the future.

National Category
Social Sciences
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-14529 (URN)
Available from: 2007-05-21 Created: 2007-05-21

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