This proposal is an exploratory research and development project that addresses the question, "Can students develop an understanding of the ecological nature of science (ENOS) in high school biology and environmental science classes that is useful and productive in environmental citizenship?" To address this question, the project will identify the essential elements of ENOS, investigate how these can be taught and learned, and explore how ENOS skills and understandings are used to enhance environmental citizenship. Four core hypotheses form the research focus and rationale for the proposed project: 1) ENOS is distinctive in important ways from generic NOS; 2) ENOS mastery enhances students' abilities to critique claims, address issues and support scientific approaches to problems; 3) personal facility with ENOS and related teaching, recognition of ENOS as a worthy target of instruction, and self confidence enable teachers to integrate ENOS into their instruction; and 4) students can develop ENOS mastery when they have direct experience creating arguments from ecological evidence of diverse types in diverse contexts, reflect on ENOS, and have scaffolded experiences transferring ENOS within ecology and to other arenas. To explore these hypotheses, the project will define ENOS, develop assessment tools for describing students' and teachers' skills and understandings of ENOS, and test ways for teachers and students to become more adept at acquiring and applying ENOS skills and knowledge. ENOS Learning Communities (high school biology and environmental science teachers, ecologists and educators) at the Cary Institute and Rutgers University will work with a Concept Development Team (8 ecologists, educators and teachers) to develop an ENOS framework, plan and carry out student and teacher research, develop ENOS teaching experiments, test approaches to teacher professional development, and craft a plan for broader application of the ENOS framework and teaching models. Over the course of two years, approximately 720 students will be reached, with the expectation that their environmental citizenship will be enhanced through mastery of ENOS skills and concepts, as will their self confidence in approaching problems. Six ENOS Teaching/Research Fellows (high school biology and environmental science teachers) will be partners in the project, and will receive professional development and support including more than 210 direct contact hours with project staff. Finally, local communities will benefit from projects carried out by students in their culminating activities where they address a local issue using multiple forms of ecological evidence. Products of the project will be disseminated broadly, including: 1) a framework to guide incorporation of ENOS into high school instruction and assessments; 2) a collection of assessment items and protocols for describing students and teachers ENOS skills and knowledge; 3) research publications and presentations about student thinking and learning, and about teachers ENOS practices; and 4) instructional models with modified lesson plans for infusing ENOS into high school biology and environmental science courses.
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