2008 Joint Meeting of The Geological Society of America, Soil Science Society of America, American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, Gulf Coast Association of Geological Societies with the Gulf Coast Section of SEPM

Paper No. 11
Presentation Time: 4:00 PM

How Authentic Can Scientific Inquiry Be in the Classroom, and Does It Matter? a Case Study Addressing Graduate Professional Programs in Environmental Sciences

LOUCHOUARN, Patrick, Oceanography, Texas A&M University, 1001 Texas Clipper Road, Galveston, TX 77551, loup@tamug.edu

A main goal of environmental science education is to contextualize scientific content so that students learn to reason about environmental issues with the appropriate understanding of the complexity that characterizes earth and human systems. Because of the complex behavior of near-surface earth systems alone, individuals often experience difficulties in building authentic and accurate mental models of how they function. This situation in turns hinders the incorporation of appropriate information and scientific reasoning in decision-making on environmental issues. In this paper, we suggest that environmental education must address both the issues of scientific literacy and the contextualization of scientific knowledge. Additionally, because environmental decision-making involves risk assessment and management, an understanding of the role of scientific uncertainty is as critical as understanding cognitive and epistemic elements of the nature of science. Following the recommendations of prior studies, we suggest that students must be exposed to authentic inquiry exercises. However, recognizing the difficulty to achieve true authentic inquiry in professional programs, we recognize that the different elements of the nature of science, scientific inquiry, and the role of uncertainty in scientific findings need to be addressed explicitly.