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Investigating pre-service science teachers’ construction and understanding of environmental knowledge through field based collaborative inquiry

Cihangir, Cihan Gülin
Based on the importance of implementing effective environmental education has been asserted to a sustainable solution to the environmental problems, this study aimed to (1) investigate the pre-service science teachers’ processes of construction of explanations regarding environmental problems, and (2) provide an environment for researchers to understand the dispositions of participants in terms of how using environmental explanations for answering the questions. The research has been realized within the context of an elective course titled “Laboratory applications in environmental education” in the Department of Elementary Education throughout 2008-2009 Spring semesters. The 21 pre-service science teachers attended the course and participated the environmental learning activities including five different environmental problems; biological diversity, surface waters, drinking water, waste water and air pollution with in a small group. Field trip activities, group discussions and whole class discussions were conducted through the course. Data were collected through audio and video recorders from one small group and through pre, post-tests. Analyses of data revealed that pre-service science teachers could not aware of the complex and multidisciplinary nature of environmental knowledge, so they mostly interpreted environmental problems through the everyday knowledge that they derived from everyday experiences. Through peer collaboration in fields and student-facilitator collaboration in discussions weeks, the pre-service science teachers have a chance to analyze different perspectives and ideologies about the causes and solutions of environmental problems. The pre-tests and post-test results revealed that in the field-based collaborative inquiry activities the participants’ nature of explanations shifted from descriptive to formal and scientific explanations.