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Faculty for Biology, Chemistry and Earth Sciences

Department of Biology Education - Prof. Dr. Franz X. Bogner

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Fremerey, C: Forschend-entdeckendes Lernen zum Thema Trinkwasser am außerschulischen Lernort, (2014)
Drinking water is our most important resource. A high level of awareness of this resource is therefore necessary. Clean drinking water usually receives little attention (Pereira & Pestana, 1991), although nowadays it is often exposed to environmental threats. Consequently, educational efforts often follow the goal of protecting nature in general (Potter, 2009); besides other aspects, an appropriate transfer of knowledge is regarded as an appropriate approach to achieving this goal. Within this context, teaching of scientifically correct concepts is a fundamental pre-requisite. Many people have naïve (or correctly labelled: alternative) conceptions of environmental issues. These alternative conceptions are often reasons for an inconsistent information uptake and complicated communication (e.g., Shaw et al., 2008; Niebert & Gropengießer, 2011; Sellmann & Bogner, 2012). Consequently, an integration of everyday experiences into environmental learning programmes should be an education objective. For the issue of drinking water, such an integration is regarded achievable, for example, by a guided factory (or outreach) tour (Kaibel et al., 2006). Another goal of environmental education is intervening with individual environmental attitudes or in a long-term view even promoting ecological behaviour. Frick et al. (2004) postulated three distinct types of knowledge that influence environmental behaviour: system knowledge, action-related knowledge and effectiveness knowledge. An integration of the three dimensions of knowledge in a single learning programme promises positive effects for environmental education (Liefländer et al., 2014). Conceptions about drinking water are under-researched and, thus, play still a small role in teaching. Identification of alternative conceptions can help to provide teaching contents in a pupil-oriented and age-appropriate manner. Most environmental projects are long-term interventions, but due to tight school-schedules these programmes are not easy to integrate into day-to-day school life. Therefore, background intentions for our learning programmes are the following: short duration, student-centred, authentic learning environments, primary experiences, skills promotion and simplicity of implementation. My dissertation contains three sub-studies: First, identification of alternative conceptions related to drinking water with two-fold aims: On the one hand, to determine the current state of knowledge and, on the other, to react to scientifically incorrect concepts (sub-study A). Second, an education programme within a factory tour was monitored regarding the acquired knowledge level and the relationship between individual environmental attitudes and learning success (sub-study B). In a third study, a learning programme was applied to promote a consistent cognitive knowledge increase in the three types of environmental knowledge (sub-study C). Alternative conceptions of sub-study A were integrated into the educational programme of sub-study C, due to the positive effects on knowledge increase, which other studies have examined (Vosniadou & Brewer, 1992; Lee et al., 2003; Sellmann & Bogner, 2012; Franke & Bogner, 2013). Sub-study A describes alternative conceptions of 10th graders and undergraduates. The conceptions are similar in both groups, but occur with different frequencies. Transfer of knowledge, as a major goal of sub-study B, is successful within the short-term programme. It is interesting that individual attitudes to the programme affect knowledge increase: Previous studies (Fraser et al., 1987; Randler & Bogner, 2007) show similar results, e.g. a positive relationship between motivation and learning success. The second programme results (sub-study C) are encouraging as well: Within an intervention using learning at workstations in an authentic and student-centred learning environment, a high long-term knowledge level in all three types of environmental knowledge was established. Especially in effectiveness knowledge, participants show a significant knowledge increase. Additionally, an increase in knowledge convergence has been achieved, by testing correlations of all three types of knowledge between all three test-times. All outreach programmes integrated basic or detailed knowledge about the subject of drinking water. They allow a sensitisation of awareness to our most important resource. The use of all learning units in (classroom) teaching is very variable. They can be used either as an introduction, or to deepen knowledge. Due to the (short) duration, they fit in with the tight school schedules. A mediation of special environmental knowledge is possible by the modules developed. This knowledge is shown to directly relate to general ecological behaviour (Kaiser et al., 2008). Student-centred and authentic learning environments seem to provide the knowledge increase and, with different teaching methods, they offer promising opportunities for successful learning.
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