Date of Graduation

8-2012

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Curriculum and Instruction (PhD)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

Curriculum and Instruction

Advisor

Cathy Wissehr

Committee Member

Michael Wavering

Second Committee Member

George Denny

Third Committee Member

William F. McComas

Keywords

Education; Environmental education; Outdoor education; Residential education; residential environmental learning center; Science education

Abstract

A multiple case study investigation examines the relationship between a residential environmental learning center and six schools that attend their program. Pre-experience interviews were conducted with teachers to gain understanding of how they integrate the residential experience with formal classroom instruction. On-site observations of teacher participation during the program provided insight into how they foster student learning during the experience. A student questionnaire was used to reveal students' perceptions of three areas of interest: 1) most meaningful aspects of the experience, 2) most confusing aspects of the experience and 3) topics they would like to know more about. These data inform how pre-experience preparation and activity scheduling influence student perceptions of expected outcomes. Interviews with the residential learning center education staff describe the importance and difficulties associated establishing a working relationship with classroom teachers. Results reveal that the residential learning center school programs offer students an opportunity to experience and learn content that is aligned to the ideal curriculum of environmental education including ecological principles, issue identification, solution formation, civic responsibility and motivation. The residential learning center provides students an opportunity to connect with nature and students identified out-of doors science investigations as the most meaningful aspect of the experience. Teachers underestimated the influence of teaching science outdoors and pre-experience preparation impacts student outcomes. Using grounded theory methodology this research identified eight causal conditions, which act as barriers to engaging teachers in onsite instruction. Four of these conditions are specific to teachers and the remaining four are products of the education staff. Recommendation and implications for teacher professional development are discussed.

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