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Developing the Environmental Literacy Concept Inventory

This grant impacts undergraduate environmental education at the University of Northern Colorado.

Dr. Julie Maertens from the CSU STEM Center will aid Dr. Holt by providing program evaluation. The STEM Center will work with the project team to provide educators with a tool to measure student understanding of environmental impacts on biotic systems. The project will conduct a qualitative study and collect interview data to identify undergraduate students’ and faculty’s understanding of the biological impacts of environmental change. This information will be used to create an environmental literacy concept inventory. The project will use the inventory with a sample of students in biology classes across the country and then use those results to improve the inventory. The project will then conduct a pre- and post-test quantitative study using the revised inventory to identify students’ knowledge of environmental impacts on biotic systems. Project activities are aimed at developing a valid and reliable assessment tool, as well as producing research data on students’ understanding of environmental impacts on biotic systems. The inventory and data will guide faculty efforts to improve undergraduate students’ environmental literacy.

Award Abstract:

Living things, from bacteria to humans, are all affected by their environment, and changes in this environment can have unexpected consequences, both positive and negative. Faculty report having difficulty teaching how environmental changes can affect living things, often because students do not understand how such changes intersect with their own lives. Education about interactions between the environment and living systems has the potential to help students relate environmental change to their own lives and foster an environmentally literate STEM workforce. However, these education efforts are limited because no tool currently exists to measure student knowledge of environmental impacts on living things. To improve the effectiveness of instruction in environmental literacy, biology educators need a valid and reliable way to measure student understanding in this area. Concept inventories are sets of multiple-choice questions that evaluate students’ conceptual knowledge about a topic and help to measure how much students understand about it. These inventories can identify what aspects of a topic are difficult for students, and track student learning over time. Concept inventories can also be used to test the effectiveness of various teaching strategies. This project will develop and test a concept inventory focused on environmental literacy in biology, with the overall goal of enhancing undergraduate environmental education.  

PI: Emily Holt

Source of Funding: NSF

Funding Program: DUE: Division of Undergraduate Education

Award Amount: $299,955

Start Date: 10/01/2018

End Date: 09/30/2021

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