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|Sabel, J., Vo, T., Alred, A., Dauer, J., Forbes, C. (2017). Undergraduate students' scientifically - informed decision-making about socio-hydrological issues. Journal of College Science Teaching, 46(6), 71-79. Online|
- Presentation Type: Thesis Defense
- Date: 11/16/2016
Global biodiversity, a foundation for ecosystem function, is diminishing at a rate unprecedented in the last 50 years. Biodiversity loss and ecosystem services deterioration is linked to increased food insecurity, reduced water quality and availability, decreased energy security, higher economic losses and human suffering, and damaged social relations (Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, 2005). Consequently, educational strategies should support students in their development of ecological understanding and formal decision-making skills so they are equipped with meaningful tools they can one day use as scientifically literate citizens. To contribute to that mission, this study seeks to better understand student 1) comprehension and explanation of biodiversity concepts and 2) decision-making in the face of a conservation-related socioscientific issue.
Past research shows that students at all levels of education have difficulty explaining genetic variability, which is a key concept underlying biodiversity, natural selection, and species conservation. The first part of our study explores middle school, high school, and undergraduate student understanding of genetic variability in the context of a captive breeding program for wildlife conservation. Results from this study show that several alternative conceptions of genetic variability persist across all grade levels.
The second part of our study explores how undergraduate students make decisions in unstructured and structured decision-making settings when posed with a question relating to mountain lion conservation in Nebraska. Some variables (e.g., value orientations, demographic information, or ecological content knowledge) are predictive of students' management decisions depending on the context in which the question was asked. Findings suggest that student decision-making may be more closely linked to students' value orientations, social identity and conservation knowledge than to students' own stated objectives and evaluation criteria related to mountain lion hunting. This study also suggests that implementing a structured decision-making framework in the classroom can be an effective tool to help support students' examination of value tradeoffs among options for solving complex problems. I provide teaching implications for using these tools in supporting students to make formal, holistic decisions for complex socioscientific issues that transfer to real-world contexts.
- 2016 – Meritorious Graduate Student awarded by School of Natural Resources, UNL
- 2015 – Certificate of Recognition for Contributions to Students awarded by UNL Parents Association
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