Date of Award

2009

Level of Access

Campus-Only Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Teaching

Advisor

Molly Schauffler

Second Committee Member

Susan McKay

Third Committee Member

Paul Rawson

Abstract

The Aquatic Invaders in Maine (AIM) Summer Institute instructed teachers from middle schools in Maine on engaging in invasive species monitoring of local aquatic habitats. The workshop was intended to provide teachers with skill and content knowledge in the context of a real environmental problem. The purpose of my research was to assess what content knowledge and invasive species monitoring and identification skills teachers obtained from the AIM workshop and what their students learned as a result of their teacher's participation. Teachers' pedagogies were discerned through observation of their AIM-related lessons. Maine fourth-grade students were asked questions on the Maine Education Assessment (MEA) to assess their understanding of key invasive species-related concepts. Fourth-grade students' results were used to determine knowledge students possess before entering middle school. Middle school students of teachers attending the workshop were surveyed to quantify their content and skill understanding as a result of AIM. Key findings of this research are: 1. Teachers entered the AIM workshop with a strong understanding of identification and monitoring skills that improved as a result of the workshop, but the improvement was not statistically significant. 2. The workshop significantly enhanced teachers' understanding of content related to invasive species' characteristics, modes of habitat entry, and impacts on aquatic ecosystems. 3. Students who participated in AIM-related lessons were better able to explain research and stewardship methods that were part of lessons they took part in. 4. Students' understandings of invasive species' characteristics and of interrelationships in an ecosystem were significantly enhanced by AIM. Before AIM, middle school students were less able to understand and interpret food webs than were fourth- grade students. Participation in AIM did not significantly affect student understanding of competition for limited resources and understanding and interpretation of food webs. 5. Teacher definitions of guided inquiry did not change as a result of the AIM workshop. Teachers' limited definitions of inquiry most frequently did not include student-centered design, reflective research, and data analysis and interpretation; characteristics that were consistently absent from observed lessons.

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