Wednesday, August 6, 2008 - 4:20 PM

OOS 17-9: Teachers in the woods: Qualitative conceptual modeling, research experiences, and conceptual change

Marion Dresner, Portland State University


We wanted to explore how an understanding about ecological processes can be enhanced for high school science teachers using ecological research projects and qualitative conceptual modeling. Teams of teachers were engaged in a two week course at one of five different Long Term Ecological Research sites. We tested how effective a series of qualitative models composed by participants were in portraying their growth in ecological understanding.  Teachers were asked to construct qualitative conceptual models and write explanatory essays at three points during their research experience.


The progression of teachers’ models included an initial intuitive explanation, with misconceptions, and typically improved by the post-test to involve elaborations of more complex and accurate understanding of ecological phenomenon. These results illustrate shifts in teachers’ thinking. The models essentially provide teachers with a means to visualize their conceptions of ecosystem processes at critical points throughout their engegement in the research process. Their understanding is further enhanced through collegial discussions. A series of models can support the restructuring of novice scientists’ ideas. Teachers and their students need the opportunity to engage in real world research, coupled with reflective use of qualitative modeling and ongoing collegial discussions to be able to develop more appropriate reasoning about ecological concepts.