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Trading Zones in Environmental Education

Creating Transdisciplinary Dialogue


Edited By Marianne E. Krasny and Justin Dillon

Environmental educators often adhere to a relatively narrow theoretical paradigm focusing on changing attitudes and knowledge, which are assumed to foster pro-environmental behaviors, which, in turn, leads to better environmental quality. This book takes a different approach to trying to understand how environmental education might influence people, their communities, and the environment. The authors view changing environmental behaviors as a «wicked» problem, that is, a problem that does not readily lend itself to solutions using existing disciplinary approaches. The book as a whole opens up new avenues for pursuing environmental education research and practice and thus expands the conversation around environmental education, behaviors, and quality. Through developing transdisciplinary research questions and conceptual paradigms, this book also suggests new practices beyond those currently used in environmental education, natural resources management, and other environmental fields.
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Chapter 5. Inquiry, Models, and Complex Reasoning to Transform Learning in Environmental Education: Barbara A. Crawford and Rebecca Jordan

Conceptions of Environmental, Ecological, and Scientific Literacy


Chapter 5

Inquiry, Models, and Complex Reasoning to Transform Learning in Environmental Education

Barbara A. Crawford and Rebecca Jordan

In this chapter, we bring together our different perspectives as a science education researcher and an ecological researcher to address the question, How can learners engage in environment-related investigations through the common lens of modeling as a practice? We begin by highlighting the conceptions of environmental, ecological, and scientific literacy, which also feature inquiry. We present two contrasting cases in which upper elementary and middle school students engaged in model-based reasoning. We posit that an understanding of models and modeling would position children and adults to have a better appreciation of the tools and products of an ecologist or environmental scientist. An emphasis on the process and nature of modeling could serve as a window into a learner’s own thinking. We conclude with a broader consideration of cognitive theory and future research directions. The process of working across our two disciplines evolved as we first searched to find a common research focus. We discussed what it might mean to be transformative. Surprisingly, we discovered quite easily our common focus: one that is centered on models and modeling. We then evolved a two-part commentary, as each of us developed our own case illustrating the process and significance of models in the context of our own work. Finally, we worked towards finding a unified voice.

Achieving a scientifically literate citizenry presents a major challenge to...

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