Pathways to Ecological Literacy: Developing a Biodiversity Learning Progression
Humans make decisions daily that impact biodiversity, and it is essential that citizens understand the implications of these decisions. Yet, ecological systems are extremely complex, with many details still being discovered. Our challenge is to identify the underlying principles and concepts governing the distribution of organisms, and then communicate these details to students in a way that influences their citizenship decisions as participants in local and global communities.
Based on previous ecological and educational research, we developed a conceptual framework that simplifies this complexity and explains our “upper anchor,” i.e. the primary concepts all high school graduates should understand about biodiversity in order to be considered ecologically literate. We encourage feedback from ASM participants regarding our framework; just write your comments on our poster. Based on this framework, we developed and administered written assessments and clinical interviews to students and teachers over the past year at three LTER sites: KBS, BES and SGS. In our poster, we highlight some example questions and sample responses from teachers and students. We provide more detail for one sample question about polar bears and captive breeding, and suggest a hypothesized learning progression associated with the question. Ultimately, these assessments in combination with teaching experiments will lead towards a biodiversity learning progression that documents the steps students take along the pathway to ecological literacy. Educators will be able to use this information to guide their students in a more direct and efficient manner.