Elementary Pre service Teachers Environmental Literacy and Views toward STS Issues

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Elementary Pre service Teachers Environmental Literacy and Views toward STS Issues
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  56 S CIENCE E DUCATOR Elementary Pre-service Teachers’Environmental Literacy and ViewsToward Science, Technology, andSociety (STS) Issues The study explored elementary pre-service teachers’ attitudes toward environmental and STS issues, their levels of environmental literacy and knowledge about STS, and their views about teaching environmental and STS issues. Aidin Amirshokoohi A quick glance at our modernworld reveals a deep interrelationshipbetween science, technology, andsociety. Science and technology areincreasingly influencing numerousaspects of contemporary life and are,in turn, affected by societal valuesand norms. In fact, it is estimated thatmore than 90% of all current societalissues are grounded in science andtechnology (Yager, 1987). Hickman,Patrick, and Bybee argue, “The successof individuals and their society istied to the quality of their choice,which varies with the knowledge andcognitive skills of decision makers.”Furthermore, he argues that thesuccess of democracies hinge upon the“ability of citizens to think effectivelyabout developments in science andtechnology and their effects on theworld” (1987, p. 5). It is thereforeimperative that citizens understandthe interconnections between science,technology, and society and take anactive and responsible role in thedecision making processes relatedto the social application of scienceand technology. Many individualsremain poorly equipped to deal withmultifaceted societal issues thatare intertwined with science andtechnology (Cheek, 1992).the interconnections between science,technology, and society “becausethese relationships are among themost important ideas, experiencesand traditions common to all of us”(1983, p. 302). Achieving scientificliteracy involves educating studentsabout complex social issues and theirunderlying scientific and technologicalprinciples. Hence, learning science inits social context is vital to the successof science education reform.The Science-Technology-Society(STS) movement flourished in thelate seventies and early eighties in aneffort to tackle the societal concerns of the time which demanded, as Hofsteinand Yager argued, “a different kind of science curriculum” (1982, p. 540).Such issues as overpopulation, varioustypes of pollution, dangers of nuclearproliferation, and shortage of waterand other natural resources continueto cause concern and stir debates onall sides. The STS movement aimed toaddress the need to develop a scientificliterate society by providing studentswith real-world connections between Achieving scientific literacyinvolves educating studentsabout complex socialissues and their underlyingscientific and technologicalprinciples. Cognizant of the urgent need forscientific literacy in various arenasincluding the workforce, scientificliteracy for all students has becomethe centerpiece of science educationreform movements for the past severaldecades and has been touted bymajor reform documents such as theNational Science Education Standards(National Research Council [NRC],1996). Boyer argued that there is adefinite place in the core curriculum for  S PRING 2010 V OL . 19, N O . 1 57 the classroom and society and a richerunderstanding of societal issues whoseroot causes or solutions can be found inscience and technology. STS curriculahave been designed to help studentsdevelop skills that will enable them tobe responsible citizens who are ableto make educated and well-informeddecisions.Not surprisingly, in 1982, theNSTA position statement called forSTS as a new emphasis in K-12science education and recommendeddedicating 15-20% of scienceinstruction to STS issues (Yager & Roy,1993). The STS framework is basedon an interdisciplinary constructivistphilosophy that promotes the genuineand active engagement of studentsin the learning process. Accordingto Yager, the process should “givethe students practice in identifyingpotential problems, collectingdata with regard to the problem,considering alternative solutions, andconsidering the consequences basedon a particular decision” (1990, pp.198-200). The STS approach allowsthe development of particular skillsneeded to address a wide range of social and technological endeavors(Bybee, 1987) and, consequently,promotes social responsibility andactive engagement (Aikenhead,1984). The STS curriculum focuseson the reciprocal relationships betweensocial, political, and cultural values andscientific research and technologicalinnovations.The aforementioned complexinteractions between science,technology, and society have generatednumerous societal issues whichare the foci of the STS curriculumframework. Examples of STS issuesinclude pollution, deforestation, globalwarming, energy depletion, geneticengineering, stem cell research,biological and chemical warfare, andnuclear and toxic waste disposal. It isimportant to note that all environmentalissues are STS issues, but not all STSissues are environmental. In fact, theSTS curricula have been significantlyinfluenced by the EnvironmentalEducation (EE) curricula, which alsoaim to produce a responsible citizenry.The goal of EE is environmentalliteracy, which is defined by Roth as“essentially the degree of our capacityto perceive and interpret the relativehealth of environmental systems andto take appropriate action to maintain,restore, or improve the health of thosesystems” (1992, p. 14). This echoesan earlier and well documented claimby Stapp (1969) that the goal of environmental education is to createa citizenry that is well-informedabout the biophysical environmentand its related problems, consciousof ways to help solve those issues,and motivated to work toward theresolution of these issues. The variousdefinitions of the term environmentalliteracy include several overlappingand related dimensions: environmentalsensitivity, knowledge, skills, attitudesand values, personal investment andresponsibility, and active invo1vement(Disinger & Roth, 1992). The aim of STS education is to enhance students’scientific and environmental literacyin an effort to bring about changes inpersonal perception and public policiesand, ultimately, to bring about theresolution of STS issues.Prior studies have suggested amultitude of benefits brought aboutthrough STS education, includingthe development and promotion of scientific “habits of mind” (Hungerford& Volk, 1990; Roth, 1992), positiveattitude toward science, increasedinterest in learning (Yager & Penick,1991), decision making skills,creativity, and overall science processskills (National Science TeachersAssociation [NSTA], 1990; Yager,1989). STS curriculum componentsencourage students to gain experiencein “identifying potential problems,collecting data with regards to theproblem, considering alternativesolutions, and the consequences basedon a particular decision” (Yager,1990). Similarly, Zoller argues thatthe STS-oriented approach fosterscritical thinking as students become“experts at problem solving, askingquestioning, and drawing conclusionsbased on their interpretation of thesocietal events” (1992, pp. 289-290).Brunkhorst and Yager (1990) alsosuggest that STS programs promotehigher order thinking skills. STS issuesare motivating and thought provoking,and STS education provides studentsopportunities to 1) interact withtheir peers, teachers, school, andcommunity, 2) apply their knowledgeto real world situations (Yager,Mackinnu, & Blunk, 1992), and 3)experience science outside classroomboundaries.However, despite the numerousbenefits STS education offers, ithas, regrettably, not been as widelyembraced as srcinally anticipated.One possible explanation is thatteachers are inadequately trained toaddress science in its social context,and this is due, in part, to the fact The STS framework is basedon an interdisciplinaryconstructivist philosophythat promotes the genuineand active engagement ofstudents in the learningprocess.  58 S CIENCE E DUCATOR that STS education simply does not“fit with the way education is nowstructured and presented” (Hausbeck,Milbrath, & Enright, 1992, pp. 32-33). Hence, a logical precursor to theimplementation of STS education isto better prepare teachers to adopt thistype of science instruction. Teachersare crucial change agents whoseclassroom practices are immenselyinfluenced by their beliefs (Rubba,1991). Furthermore, teachers’ beliefshave been demonstrated to extensivelyimpact the success of science educationreforms in the classroom. Therefore, asRubba (1991) argues, the developmentand implementation of an STScurriculum necessitates compatibilitybetween teachers’ beliefs and the goalsof STS education. Consequently, itis imperative that teacher traininginvolves ample opportunity forteachers to examine their beliefs andconfront possible inconsistencies intheir beliefs.Although there have been a numberof studies that have explored secondaryin-service and pre-service teachers’beliefs about STS education, levelsof environmental literacy, attitudestoward teaching STS or environmentalissues, and/or the impact of teachereducation programs on teacher beliefsand attitudes, studies involvingelementary pre-service teachers areextremely scarce. In an effort to beginto bridge this gap in the literature, thecurrent study was initiated to serveas a descriptive exploratory field testfor a subsequent study that intendsto examine the impact that a STS-oriented science methods course hason pre-service elementary teachers’level of environmental literacy, theirviews and perceptions toward STSissues, and the instruction of suchissues in their classrooms. The aimof the current study was to gain abetter understanding of elementarypre-service teachers’ attitudes towardenvironmental and STS issues, theirlevels of environmental literacy andknowledge about STS, and their viewsabout teaching environmental and STSissues to their prospective students. Methodology Sample This pilot study, which took placeat a large Midwestern university inthe spring of 2006, is intended toserve as a prelude to a larger studythat focuses on the impact of a STS-oriented science methods courseon elementary pre-service teachers’environmental literacy and viewsand perceptions regarding STS issuesand instructions. Therefore, it wasthe intention of the current study toexplore the abovementioned factorsin this particular population of pre-service teachers to ascertain whethersuch intervention was necessary. Thesample consisted of two sections of theelementary science methods course (n= 41) that were conveniently selectedbased on the author’s and courseinstructors’ schedules. This course wasthe only science methods course inwhich elementary education candidateswere required to enroll as part of theprogram. The prerequisite to thiscourse was an introductory sciencecontent course especially designedfor elementary education majorsfocusing on scientific inquiry andbasic elementary science concepts.Some students had also enrolled in oneor both of the science content courses(physics and biology) required forelementary education candidatesconcurrent with their enrollment inthe science methods course.The demographic survey atthe beginning of one of thetwo instruments that wereadministered revealed severalpossibly relevant features of this group (summarized inFigures 1-3). The majority of the participants were female(85%), Caucasian studentsfrom suburban communities whowere completing their last year inthe program. Data Collection Data collection consisted of the administration of two separateinstruments toward the end of thespring semester. The first survey, theEnvironmental Literacy Instrument Community  UrbanSuburbanRural60%5%35% Figure 1: Participants’ ResidentialCommunities Race White AmericanHispanic American African American90%5%5% Figure 2: Participants’ Racial Backgrounds  Year in School SophomoreJuniorSenior59%21%21% Figure 3: Participants’ Year in School  S PRING 2010 V OL . 19, N O . 1 59 (ELI-7 th edition), was developedby Wilke, Hungerford, Volk, andBluhm (1995) and measures sevensubscales: Issue Familiarity, PerceivedKnowledge, Perceived Skills, PersonalAction History, Issue Identification,Issue Analysis, and Action Plan. Faceand content validity for the ELI wereestablished by a national panel of 19 science/environmental educationprofessionals, including universityprofessors, teacher educators, andnon-formal professionals (Ngwidibah,1997). The instruments’ reliabilitymeasures, which were not reportedin the srcinal study, were determinedin this current study and will bereported in the results section. The ELIbegins with a section that deals withdemographics and familial/personalenvironmental sensitivity indicators.The main body of the ELI consistsof two major tests labeled Test Oneand Test Two, respectively, plus 12subsections (see Table 1).The second instrument, ThePerception of STS Issues (PSTSI), wasdeveloped by Jamuluddin (unpublisheddissertation, 1990) and revised byNgwidibah (1997). It measuresparticipants’ perception of STS issuesand the teaching of such issues toelementary students. The Perceptionof STS Issues (PSTSI) instrumentconsists of two parts, each containingfour questions that utilize a five pointLikert Scale (0 = “to no extent”; 4= “to a great extent”). Part 1, “Youand STS Issues“, asks participants toanswer questions related to: 1) theirviews regarding the importance of understanding STS issues, 2) theirpersonal interest in understanding STSissues, 3) their perceptions of their ownskills to investigate and evaluate STSissues, and 4) their perceptions of theirown skills to help resolve STS issues.Questions in part 2, “Teaching STSto Children in Elementary School”,focus on: 1) participants’ belief aboutthe importance of elementary schoolstudents’ understanding of STS issues,2) their willingness to teach elementaryschool students to understand STSissues, 3) perceptions about theirability to teach elementary schoolstudents to investigate and evaluateSTS issues, and 4) perceptions abouttheir ability to teach them how toresolve STS issues.The reliability of the scoringprotocol had been established usingthe inter-rater reliability method of three-way scoring procedure basedon random selection of 10 responsesfrom Part I. The srcinal study reportedPearson Correlation Coefficients of .98, .97, and .92 (Ngwidibah, 1997)which correspond to coefficient of determination (r 2 ) values of .96, .94,and .85 that indicate high level of consistency among the three scorers. Data Analysis and Results The different sections of theinstruments were scored by the authorand a second scorer based on the rubricprovided in the instruments (AppendixA). The Cronbach’s Alpha for the entireELI instrument was determined to be0.75. Because each of the subscalesconsists of only one item, the reliabilityfor individual subscales cannot bereported. However, since tests 2.1 and2.2 each consists of three subscalesCronbach’s Alpha scores are reportedfor these two tests as 0.59 and 0.63respectively. Descriptive statisticalanalysis, including measures of centraltendency, measures of dispersion, andfrequency distribution, for the twototal scores (ELI & STS totals) wereperformed and will be discussed inthis section.Table 2 summarizesthe results of the ELI.The maximum andminimum scores, themean, and standarddeviation for each of the seven subsectionsas well as the total scorefor the entire survey arereported. Due to the lackof similar studies in theliterature, the maximum However, despite thenumerous benefits STSeducation offers, it has,regrettably, not beenas widely embraced assrcinally anticipated. Title Focus/ Scale MaximumMeasured Variables Score Test 1: Familiarity with 0-4 point each 24The Issues with Which I am Familiar environmental/STS[Issue Awareness] issuesTest 2.1 Perceived knowledge 0-4 16How I feel About Things and What I Perceived skill 0-4 16Do about Things Self-reported actions 0-5 140Test 2.2 Issue Identification 0-6 6[Issue Analysis & Citizenship Action] Issue Analysis 0-16 16Citizen Action Skills 0-20 20   Table 1: Environmental Literacy Instrument (ELI) sections and scoring rubric  60 S CIENCE E DUCATOR possible scores for each section andthe entire instrument served as apoint of reference in the interpretationof the data. The data indicate lowscores on all subsections and theoverall instrument. The mean scoreswere incredibly low for the first fivesections: Issue Familiarity (M=3.27,SD=3.362), Perceived Knowledge(M=5.22, SD=2.25), Perceived Skills(M=4.78, SD= 2.715), PersonalAction History (M=25.53, SD=12.74),and Issue Identification (M=4.29,SD=2.25) and failed to reach evenone half of the total possible score foreach respective section.Participants’ meanscores on the last twosections, Issue Analysis(M= 8.24, SD=7.00),and Action Plan(M=11.75, SD=5.35)fared better than theaforementioned onesand slightly exceeded50% of the totalpossible score for thesesections. These sectionsdiffered from the firstfive in that they eitherprovided participantschoices to select fromor background storiesthat they could readand extract necessaryinformation from. These differencesmight serve as a possible explanationfor the higher scores on these sectionsthan the other sections. The meangrand total score for the ELI instrument(M=63.68, SD=19.15) failed to reacheven one third of the total possiblescore. The maximum score of 100,obtained by only one participant, wasstill considerably lower than the totalpossible score of 230.Figure 4 provides a visual of thefrequency distribution of the GrandTotal ELI scores. Most participantsscored between 60 and 90 on thisinstrument. These scoresindicate that the results areskewed to the left.Table 3 indicates theresults of the PSTS survey.Similar to the ELI instrument,the data for this instrumentwere also interpreted basedon the maximum possiblescores. However, a quickglance at the data from thetwo instruments reveals thatthe participant scores on thisinstrument were comparatively betterthan the ELI scores. For example, thegrand total mean score (M=15.32,SD=5.25) for this instrument wasfound to approximate 50% of thetotal possible score of 32. Figure5 shows the frequency distributionof the Grand Total scores for thePSTS instrument. The frequencydistribution of participants’ scoreson this instrument is not as skewedas the other instrument. The majorityof the scores fell between 10 and 22.Their overall score for the perceptionsof teaching STS inthe classroom section[M=8.85 (55%)] washigher than the overallscore for the section onpersonal views of STS[M=6.46 (40%)], whichindicates that theseteacher candidates hada more positive attitudetoward teaching STSissues than towardpersonal awareness of these issues. The meanscores for the sectionsdealing with their viewsabout the importanceof understanding STSissues (M=2.27) andteaching students about Table 2: Results of the ELI Instrument Maximum Minimum Maximum Mean Standardpossible score score score deviation Issue Familiarity 24 0 16 3.27 3.362Perceived Knowledge 15 0 10 5.22 2.253Perceived Skills 15 0 11 4.78 2.715Personal Action 140 5 59 25.53 12.743History Issue 15 0 5 4.29 2.251Identification Issue 15 0 15 8.24 7.003 Analysis Action Plan 20 0 20 11.75 5.350Grand Total for ELI 238 16 100 63.68 19.150 Figure 4: Frequency Distribution of the Grand Total ELI Scores Frequency Distribution: Grand Total ELI Scores        F     r     e     q     u     e     n     c     y 1086420 0 20 40 60 80 100 120 140 160 180 200 220 240 Mean = 63.93Std. Dev. = 19.153N = 41 Grand Total ELI Scores
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