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Among the general population, there has continued to be a struggle to improve environmental literacy with the knowledge, attitude, and awareness of basic environmental issues locally and nationally. Despite efforts through many formal and informal programs, the result nationally has indicated little to no understanding of basic environmental issues (Coyle, 2005). Many educators such as Sobel (1996, 2004) and Louv (2005) have documented the lack of positive outdoor experiences or environmental behaviors. The purpose of this study was to incorporate local environmental examples through constructivist learning techniques within a general biology non-major course to promote an increase in environmental literacy and positive environmental behavior.
Within both a pilot and full study, students from three classes (control, forum only, and forum and discussion) were given a pre-survey to collect their current level of environmental literacy as well as their demographic information. In Classes B and C (Class A - control) students were given articles, videos, and activities through online forums to study the effects of saltwater intrusion within coastal areas; Class C also included in-class discussions after the forum activity. After the instructional period, a post-survey with in-class assessments were given to measure a change in student knowledge, awareness and attitude of local environmental issues.
General biology non-major students showed no significant difference between the pre- and post-survey results, but a nonparametric analysis of the post-survey data indicated a significant difference between Class A (control) and Classes B and C (experimental classes) with all questions sets; except Class C was not significantly different in attitude with the other classes, but Class A and B were significantly different from each other.
With the in-class assessments, a nonparametric analysis indicated a significant difference between Class A to Class B in both assessments. Class C was not different from Class B in either assessment and only indicated a significant difference with Class A in the effects of osmosis on fish assessment.
These results indicate that implementing local environmental examples through constructivist learning techniques within a general biology non-major course would improve environmental literacy and positive environmental behavior within the general population.