Thursday, August 9, 2007

PS 58-48: Expanding assessment and learning in biodiversity conservation education: A methodological framework

Brian E. Hagenbuch1, Michelle L. Zjhra2, Susan Willson3, Eleanor Sterling4, Jennifer M. Rhode5, John D. Pierce6, Matthew I. Palmer7, John F. Mull8, Margaret-Ann Mayer9, Stuart R. Ketcham10, James P. Gibbs11, Christine A. Engels4, John A. Cigliano12, Nora Bynum4, Anne H. Bower6, Nicola M. Anthony13, Barbara J. Abraham14, and Michael J. Foster4. (1) Holyoke Community College, (2) Georgia Southern University, (3) Earlham College, (4) American Museum of Natural History, (5) Georgia College and State University, (6) Philadelphia University, (7) Columbia University, (8) Weber State University, (9) Dine College, (10) University of the Virgin Islands, (11) SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, (12) Cedar Crest College, (13) University of New Orleans, (14) Hampton University

Assessment tools for measuring student learning outcomes traditionally place overwhelming emphasis on the retention of course content. In biodiversity education, learning goals must extend beyond content to include conceptual understanding and familiarity with practices in the conservation profession. We propose a comprehensive outcomes assessment framework to measure not only conceptual understanding but also improvements in process skills (e.g. critical thinking, communication, data analysis, group collaboration) as well as changes in attitude and worldview. This assessment framework measures the efficacy of educational modules that were created by the Network of Conservation Educators and Practitioners (NCEP) to enhance student learning in biodiversity conservation. Our assessment methodology adapted and integrated three types of evaluation instruments: 1) Pre- and post-tests specific to each module assessed content learning, 2) the Student Assessment of Learning Gains (SALG) measured attitudes and process skills, and 3) the New Ecological Paradigm (NEP) quantified changes in worldview. This framework provides a method for independent verification and represents a more holistic paradigm for measuring student learning outcomes. Results indicate that these multiple assessment techniques help determine the broader efficacy of NCEP modules at a wide range of academic levels. This comprehensive approach to conservation education should ultimately improve both scientific literacy and directly benefit the training of conservation professionals.