“Learning Through Environmental Health Science Scenarios”

The goals of this project for students and teachers can be summarized as follows:

For students:

  • to develop content and process skills in a wide variety of disciplines through the study of context-based environmental health science scenarios,
  • to develop skills in critical thinking, problem solving, risk assessment, decision-making and communication,
  • to improve overall academic performance,
  • to develop positive attitudes towards school and towards science,
  • to enhance student knowledge of environmental health science concepts and issues,
  • to foster social responsibility,
  • to increase awareness of careers in environmental health science and related fields, and
  • to interact with professionals and scientists in environmental health science, engineering, mathematics, public health, and other areas related to the challenge problems.

For teachers:

  • to increase awareness of environmental health science issues,
  • to increase knowledge of current scientific research,
  • to increase awareness of careers in environmental health science and related fields,
  • to develop skills in team teaching,
  • to increase opportunities for professional development,
  • to network with teachers in other school districts to share teaching philosophies and practices,
  • to use real-life environmental health scenarios as an integrating context for teaching science and humanities,
  • to learn techniques for fostering social responsibility in students,
  • to develop skills in using state standardized scoring guides to evaluate student proficiency in mathematical problem solving and scientific inquiry,
  • to enhance understanding of requirements for the Oregon State Benchmarks and Certificate of Initial Mastery (CIM), and
  • to earn professional development credits or university credit for certification.

Project Evaluation

The success of the program will be evaluated through comparison of participating students and control groups on pretests and post-tests, Oregon Benchmark standardized tests, state scoring guides for mathematical problem solving and scientific inquiry, and teacher and student narratives. The control group will consist of students enrolled in traditional high school math or science classes.

The basic design of the evaluation will involve administration of both pretests and post-tests in targeted Oregon schools in years one through four. As a control, a set of matched schools will be selected from non-targeted schools. Matching criteria will be established at project initiation. A preliminary assessment of the number and characteristics of schools in Oregon indicates that sufficient schools for a pretest/post-test design with matched controls is feasible. Pretests will be administered as near as possible to the beginning of the fall term, with post-tests administered prior to the end of the school year in the spring.

Instrumentation for the evaluation will be designed and developed at project initiation. Pilot versions of the evaluation instruments will be evaluated for readability, comprehension and potential response bias by appropriate curriculum specialists. The evaluation instrument will take the form of a multi-part, survey-type inventory that will focus on a number of areas relevant to the goals of the project. These include (but are not limited to):

  • perception of environmental risks and hazards
  • understanding of science concepts relating to risk and hazard evaluation
  • impact of program curricula on attitudes about self-protective behavior
  • application and transfer of science concepts to new and/or novel problem solving situations
  • attitudes about education
  • attitudes about the personal value of science
  • attitudes about the role of science in society
  • impact of program curricula on standard benchmarks of educational development

Standard psychometric techniques will be used in the development of instrumentation, including internal consistency checks and reliability assessment. Data from pretests and post-tests, state scoring guides, state standardized tests and student and teacher narratives will be collected and computerized in data bases. Data resulting from the pretest/post-test evaluation will be analyzed in Year 5 and Year 6 using a combination of statistical techniques, including descriptive statistics, cross tabulations, and multiple regression. Where appropriate, scaling methods will be used to summarize data in terms of multivariate indices. Follow-on evaluations of special groups of students will also be done in Years 5 and 6, including students who have participated in project classes for multiple years. Year 7 will involve summarizing and reporting of project results. Papers will be submitted to technical journals to disseminate the results of the evaluation of the project.

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