This project is developing and testing assessments for improving instruction, exploring how students can learn challenging content, and enhancing the ability of teachers to provide this content. The guiding question is, 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?
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.