Fieldwork, co-teaching and co-generative dialogue in lower secondary school environmental science
Universitas Negeri Jakarta, Indonesia
Curtin University, Australia
This article reports one of the case studies in a 3-year longitudinal study in environmental science education. This case explores the process of teaching about ecosystems through co-teaching and co-generative dialogue in a Year-9 science classroom in Western Australia. Combining with co-teaching and co-generative dialogue aimed at transforming classroom practices and stimulating students' awareness of ecosystems and bio-diversity. The research employed mixed-methods methodology with multiple research methods. The results show that the teachers and the students were engaged and enjoyed the activities. The fieldwork experiences stimulated student critical voice, group cohesiveness, and student involvement.
In the school, teachers play an important role in creating awareness about environment among students (Michail, Stamou & Stamou, 2006) resulting in valuing their world for sustaining life (Morris, 2002). Environmental education is a powerful method for empowering students' awareness in dealing with future environmental challenges (Heidari & Heidari, 2015). It is important to increase students' consciousness of environmental problems by incorporating environmental sustainability in the curriculum. According to Morris (2002), consciousness is a good starting point for reconceptualising cognition which is not separated from the nature of the environment, and educators should re-imagine the possibilities of sustainability education.
Claims about benefits of engaging students in environmental education programs are many and widespread (Gough, 1997) including improvement in academic achievement, problem solving, critical thinking, and co-operative learning skills and an increased motivation to learn. This paper is part of 3-year longitudinal study in environmental science education. The first step was setting up the co-teaching and co-generative dialogue in the schools; the second step was undertaking case studies in three schools (Rahmawati, Koul & Fisher, 2015). This paper reports on a case study which focused on the teaching of ecosystems for environmental science education. In order to generate student interest in environmental education, the co-teaching and co-generative dialogue model (Tobin, 2006) was used in teaching about ecosystems. The researcher conducted co-teaching with the teachers of this topic. Then, co-generative dialogue was created with students which provided opportunities for student engagement and feedback to teachers in environmental education classes on this topic.
Beyond improving students' engagement, environmental education programs improve academic achievement across the curriculum especially in science (NEETF, 2005). Environmental education in school settings is integrated in the science curriculum which includes environmental issues such as energy, climate change, pollution, natural resources, ecosystems, endangered species and genetic engineering (Bodzin, Klein & Weaver, 2010). The national science curriculum states that science helps students to become critical thinkers by encouraging them to use evidence to evaluate the use of science in society and its application in daily life, including topics of environmental education (National Curriculum Board, 2009). The national science curriculum promotes meaningful science learning experiences which lead to students' engagement in the subject. Thus, students will be interested in understanding the world, be able to communicate scientifically, be sceptical and questioning of the claims of others, and be able to identify and investigate questions and draw evidence-based conclusions (National Curriculum Board, 2009). Thus, integrating environmental education plays an important role in students' scientific skills in relation to developing students' awareness in their environment.
Nationally, various government reports have emphasised the importance and urgent need to improve science education with special emphasis on environmental education at various educational levels (Brennan, 1994; NBEET, 1996). According to Heck (2003), Australian curriculum documents consist of 147 indicators of environmental education in the compulsory years of schooling through to senior secondary. The Australian government also has emphasised the development of environmental education in schools for the past seven years and put pressure on environmental education over three decades (Gough, 1997). However, there is a problem of low science enrolment and lack of engagement in engineering, science and technology in Australian primary and secondary schools (Venvill, 2008; Pearce, Flavell & Dao-Cheng, 2010). Improvement in science education, especially in curricula and teaching approaches are needed to overcome the problem.
This study was designed to contribute to improving existing environmental education within the field of science education, specifically teaching about ecosystems.
In developing scientific inquiry, students design questions that can be investigated using a range of inquiry skills by designing the methods, analysing the data, identifying relationships, analysing their methods and the quality of their data, and explaining specific actions to improve the quality of their evidence (ACARA, 2010). To achieve these aims, the science teacher needs to engage the students with the nature. In this research, the teacher conducted the fieldwork with the students. In the fieldwork the students needed to explore the ecosystem in the creek near the school. This experience helped the students to understand the ecosystem near their environment, as well as environmental changes.
In this project, research was conducted within learning environment conventions drawing on a theoretical framework having its basic value in the primacy of human agency. This agency, or power-to-act, includes the capacity of individuals to participate in creating their lived-in world rather than being merely determined by it. The fundamental value that researchers selected in this form of inquiry was that which researchers found appropriate to explore - the puzzles that underpin their research on learning environments. The existing practice of learning environment research was elaborated upon, to overcome two persistent gaps in education, those between educational theory and teaching practice and between the practice of research and the practice of teaching.
Place-based learning is one of the recent strands in learning environment research. It evaluates the students' awareness of the place in which they are living and their perceptions of the science curriculum covering local environmental issues. The Place-based Learning and Constructivist Environment Survey (PLACES) (Koul & Zandvliet, 2009) was developed to gather information on students' perception of their learning about environment both in field-based as well as classroom-based activities (Table 1). The scales for this instrument have been taken from already established learning environment questionnaires: the Environmental Science Learning Environment Inventory (ESLEI) (Henderson & Reid, 2000), the What is Happening in this Class (WIHIC) (Aldridge, Fraser & Haung, 1999) the Science Learning Environment Inventory (SLEI) (Fraser, Giddings & Mcrobbie, 1991) the Science Outdoor Learning Environment Instrument (SOLEI) (Orion, Hofstein, Pinchas & Giddings, 1997) and the Constructivist Learning Environment Survey (CLES) (Taylor, Fraser & Fisher, 1997).
|Relevance/integration[R/I]||Extent to which lessons are relevant and integrated with environment and field based activities.||Lessons are supported with field experiences and other field-based activities.|
|Critical voice [CV]||Extent to which students have a voice in class.||It's all right for me to openly express my opinion.|
|Student negotiation [SN]||Extent to which students can negotiate activities in their class.||Other students ask me to explain my ideas.|
|Group cohesiveness [GC]||Extent to which the students know, help and are supportive of one another.||Members of this class help one another during classroom activities.|
|Student involvement [SI]||Extent to which students have attentive interest, participate in discussions, perform additional work and enjoy the class.||I pay attention.|
|Shared control[SC]||Extent to which teacher gives control to the students.||I help the teacher to decide which activities I do.|
|Open endedness [OE]||Extent to which the teacher gives freedom to think and plan own learning.||I am encouraged to think for myself.|
|Environmental interaction[EI]||Extent to which students are engaged in field trips.||Learning is very important for me during our field trips.|
The PLACES survey has 40 items spread across eight scales (Zandiviet, 2007) and has been administered and validated in Australia, Canada, India, and Mauritius (Koul & Zandvliet, 2009). Student respond on a five point Likert scale ranging from strongly disagree (1) to strongly agree (5). Each scale in PLACES represents the elements of learning environments that could be experienced by the students. In the context of this research, during the fieldwork the multiple research method focused on assessing these elements.
In this study, we implemented co-teaching and co-generative dialogue within three phases, collaboration, dialogue and reflection as discussed below.
|Scale||Alpha reliability||Mean||Standard deviation|
|Critical voice [CV]||0.81||3.94||0.77|
|Student negotiation [SN]||0.88||3.58||0.84|
|Group cohesiveness [GC]||0.59||3.86||0.39|
|Student involvement [SI]||0.78||3.35||0.72|
|Open endedness (OE)||0.82||3.58||0.80|
|n = 17 students|
Students' positive learning experiences are shown by high mean scores ranging between 2.40 for the scale of Shared control to 3.94 for the scale of Critical voice on a five point Likert scale. Students provided very positive perceptions on the relevancy the fieldwork on the topic of Ecosystems. The Critical voice, Student negotiation, Group cohesiveness, and Open endedness indicates high usage in the fieldwork which is shown by the mean >3.50. On the other hand, the Relevance/integration, Student involvement and Shared control shows low usage which is implied by the mean score <3.50.
Overall students provided positive perceptions on the relevancy of the fieldwork on ecosystems. Students also felt that being involved in the fieldwork gave them opportunities to express their voice. Even though the students felt that having less control in the classroom, co-teaching provided an opportunity for the science teacher and students to engage in discussion on the topic. The students enjoyed the environmental learning experiences which stimulated them to think critically on ecosystems.
The results on this study show that most the scales had positive and significant correlation. Then most the inter-scale correction are significantly correlated, except for shared control which have the value of p>0.05.
|** Correlation is significant at the 0.01 level (2-tailed)|
* Correlation is significant at the 0.05 level (2-tailed)
|**p<0.01, Females (n=5); Males (n=12)|
Statistically significant differences were found between the female and male students on the scales of student involvement and open endedness. In this study male students perceived their environmental classes provide more opportunity for relevance, student negotiation, student involvement shared control and open endedness than female students.
This section presents the interview data obtained from interviews in an effort to validate the findings from the quantitative data. During the interviews, students were asked to explain the reasons for their response to each of the items and, where possible, provide an example to clarify the point.
The data provided by the questionnaires gave the researchers a platform from where interviews with students were conducted to help to explain the construct validity of the scales of PLACES. The interview data have been grouped by each scale of the questionnaire as the primary data gathering tool. The construct validity of these instruments is presented more clearly if the data are grouped in this way. Construct validity is "the degree to which a test measures an intended hypothetical construct" (Gay, 1992, p. 157).
The teacher and the researcher worked together to discuss the relevant field based and classroom activities. In the teaching of ecosystems, the researcher and the teacher conducted a field trip to a nearby creek to engage the students with nature. The students explored the different types of soils, vegetation and animals around the creek.
We drew the line on the soil and analyse the ecosystem in it. It's interesting and related to our lesson (student interview, 18 June 2010).This also allows students to have an engaging interaction with their environment, since the creek location is close with the school.
Figure 1: Students' perceptions of the fieldwork (PLACES questionnaire)
During the fieldwork the researcher noticed the students' enthusiasm and engagement in the activities. Students remarked in the interviews and in the reflective journals that they found the activities were fun.
I really liked it when we did the interesting stuff, lots of experiments and go down the creek and all that (student interview, 18 June 2010).One of students stated that it was his best learning experience during the science lesson.
At the creek, that was fun and the stuff was the best (student interview, 18 June 2010).Students' feedback after the field trip assisted the teacher and the researcher in planning future field based activities.
When I dug the creek soil, I became curious about the diversity of soil structures (student interview, 18 June 2010).The researcher and the teacher prepared several simple chemical tests for the water around the creek. We found high alkalinity, probably the result of human activity influencing the quality of the environment. This led to interesting discussion between the teacher and the students. One student thinking about the relation of human activity with environmental problems had this to say,
I was wondering about the white precipitation when we added silver nitrate, I was questioning, was the water safe for the animals and plants? (student interview, 25 June 2010).Students could start to evaluate their values of the environment. Therefore, the fieldwork activity proved to be a catalyst in processing information on environmental care.
Figure 2: Different types of soil
There should be more experiments in chemistry even once a week at least and the field work like the creek (student interview, 25 June 2010).The questionnaire results showed a high mean score on 3.58 for students' negotiation. The teacher also was happy that she understood her students' feeling about the learning activities which helped her to improve her teaching practices.
The good part of science is experiments not book work (student interview, 25 June 2010).
They really enjoyed the group work as they stated.
I like the group work (student interview, 18 June 2010).This was supported by the questionnaire result which showed a high mean score on 3.86. Therefore, the fieldwork is not only helping the students to understand the concept of ecosystems, but also helped them to learn to work with others.
I like being outside, interacting with the environment more than being in classroom (student interview, 18 June 2010).
During the fieldwork, we did the experiment, putting substance into the water in a test tube and then waiting for it to change colour. It was interesting (student interview, 18 June 2010).The questionnaire results also reflected highly on student involvement, scoring a high mean of 3.35. The students' involvement is part of the process of implementations of co-teaching and co-generative dialogue in classroom. Therefore, it is important to involve the students in their learning to improve classroom practices.
I think the teacher is really doing well. I think she shared control with the students (student interview, 25 June 2010).The teacher also learnt to share control as stated.
I see the co-teaching co-generative model as allowing student input into the workings of the class in a safe way. Their responses will not be openly criticised and their feelings will not be hurt. Whilst I am not in favour of handing too much control to the students, I see their power and control being directed into group activities (teacher interview, 25 June 2010).Even though the mean score was not really high (2.40), the teacher had learnt to share control with the students and the researcher in teaching about ecosystems, since shared control is the nature of the co-teaching and co-generative dialogue.
No, I don't like science. But, you know, once you get it, it's not that bad. I really liked it when we did the interesting stuff, lots of experiments and go down the creek and all that (student interview, 18 June 2010).The teacher also learnt from student feedback.
The teacher always tells us what you must plan for the next lesson so that we can prepare for it. We also ask questions if we don't understand something. The teacher also interacts more with us, for example, when she is explaining something, she asks us questions throughout her explanation to see whether we had understood her (student interview, 18 June 2010).
I gained an insight into what the students were expecting, and that was very helpful to me. This helped me to improvise and change my teaching style to accommodate the needs of my students (teacher interview, 25 June 2010).The teacher became a facilitator in the learning. The mean score on open-endedness was also quite high at 3.58. Even though, open-endedness was not highly applicable during the classroom observations, co-teaching and co-generative dialogue, it provided opportunities for the students to share their view on the fieldwork activities.
Quantitative analysis of the PLACES questionnaire as applicable to learning environment research has confirmed its reliability. All the scales of the questionnaire are positively and significantly correlated with each other. Statistically significant differences were found between female and male students on the scales of Student involvement and Open endedness. In this study male students perceived their environmental classes provide more opportunity for Relevance, Student negotiation, Student involvement, Shared control, and Open endedness than female students.
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|Authors: Dr Yuli Rahmawati is a lecturer in the Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Mathematics and Sciences, Universitas Negeri Jakarta, Indonesia. |
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Web: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Yuli_Rahmawati
Dr Rekha Koul is a Senior Lecturer in the Science and Mathematics Education Centre (SMEC), School of Education, Curtin University.
Email: R.Koul@curtin.edu.au Web: http://oasisapps.curtin.edu.au/staff/profile/view/R.Koul
Please cite as: Rahmawati, Y. & Koul, R. (2016). Fieldwork, co-teaching and co-generative dialogue in lower secondary school environmental science. Issues in Educational Research, 26(1), 147-164. http://www.iier.org.au/iier26/rahmawati.html