A "right" way to teach about endangered species?
Hardy, Jessica Marie
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The proposed research seeks to initiate the development of a best-practices framework for teaching about endangered species. Environmental education and behavior change theory both suggest that environmental educational materials targeting specific conservation behaviors and the underlying attitudes and subjective norms that influence them (conservation-action approach) are more likely to influence behavioral change than programs focusing on broad environmental attitudes or issues (general-knowledge approach). These lesson types represent two major contextual approaches in the design of environmental education materials, but have not been experimentally compared in regards to their capacity to promote environmental literacy (i.e. knowledge, positive attitudes, skills, and responsible behavior relating to environmental issues). The North Atlantic right whale, the world’s second-most critically endangered great whale, was used as the focal species for the environmental education materials used in this case study. The study evaluated whether environmental education lessons developed with the conservation-action or general-knowledge approaches differentially affected the environmental literacy of preservice science educators in relation to North Atlantic right whale conservation. The results of this study suggest that environmental education materials designed with the conservation-action approach have a greater capacity to promote students’ environmental literacy because the objectives of these lessons are better aligned with the goals of environmental education, and because teachers perceive these goals as important and are more inclined to implement materials they perceive as effective at promoting their students’ environmental literacy.