Students most informed about environmental science more realistic on future problems

April 23rd, 2009 - 1:04 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, Apr 23 (ANI): Students who are well versed about environmental science and the geosciences are the most realistic about the environmental challenges facing the world in the next 20 years, according to a new study.

The analysis also found that students who are least informed in these areas are the most wildly optimistic that things will improve.

The study of student performance on PISA 2006-an international assessment of 15-year-olds-looked at knowledge and attitudes about the environment among them.The study, titled ‘Green at 15?’, has been conducted by sociologist David Baker and colleagues at Pennsylvania State University

“PISA is a very large study, and there is a lot of material that’s not covered in their final report. It seemed to me that, given all the attention the environment has captured, it would be useful to know what 15-year-olds know and think about the environment, particularly environmental science and geoscience,” said Baker.

The report looks at two broad areas: achievement, or “scientific literacy,” and students’ attitudes about the environment.

In the area of achievement, American students’ performance was typical of other PISA assessments, with scores in the middle of the pack.

The assessment used a combination of multiple choice and fill-in-the-blank questions to give students an opportunity to analyse and interpret data.

For example, a question on the Greenhouse Effect included graphs showing carbon dioxide emissions and the average temperature of Earth’s atmosphere over time and asked students what information in the graphs supported a relationship between temperatures and carbon dioxide emissions.

Seventeen percent of American students demonstrated the highest level of proficiency (referred to as Level A), indicating that they could consistently identify, explain and apply scientific knowledge to a variety of environmental topics.

They also demonstrated the ability to link different information sources and explanations and use evidence from those sources to justify decisions about environmental issues.

On the other hand, 42 percent of American students performed at or below Level D, and showed difficulties answering questions containing scientific information relevant to basic environmental phenomena or issues.

In addition to gauging students’ level of optimism about the environment, the portion of PISA dealing with attitudes about the environment assessed students’ familiarity with and sense of responsibility for environmental issues.

‘Green at 15?’ showed that the vast majority of students were familiar with issues including air pollution, energy shortages and extinction of plants and animals.

For most countries, there was no strong association between the students’ sense of responsibility for environmental issues and their proficiency in environmental science. (ANI)

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