New Perspectives in Science Education

Edition 13

Accepted Abstracts

How Different Model Types Enhance System Understanding In Geography Education - A Pre-Post Comparison Of Hands-On Experiments And Abstract Computer Simulations Concerning Soil Erosion

Alexander Siegmund, Research Group for Earth Observation, Department of Geography, University of Education Heidelberg (Germany)

Svenja Brockmueller, Department of Geography University of Education Heidelberg Czernyring 22/11-12 D-69115 Heidelberg (Germany)


In the context of the consequences of global climate change, the development of suitable adaption strategies is moving more and more in the focus of scientific and political interest but causalities, especially on a regional level, often stay vague in public debate. Core of the environmental education project “ReKli:B – Evaluating regional climate change impact” is an action-oriented triad with (1) field surveys, (2) in-depth laboratory analyses, and (3) simplification of interrelationships by experiments and models. Previous and future effects of climate change on the characteristics of soil or vegetation can be traced, analysed and interpreted with the help of regional examples. Understanding complex relationships between human and environment – i.e. understanding geographic systems – is essential for people to get involved in sustainable development of regions. Thus, from an educational viewpoint the focus of research is finding best ways to enhance this geographical system competence.

Therefore, the ongoing intervention study compares changes in understanding of geographic systems between two groups of pupils working with different soil erosion model types. Pupils’ ideas of soil’s exposure to a hazard are fragmentary. Dynamic influences of the changing climatic conditions and cultivation methods on erosion quantity and adaption capabilities are typical examples of complex feedback systems. Discussing appropriate adaption strategies integrates ecological, economic and social aspects of climate change in the context of sustainability and encourages individual decision-making and responsibility.

During the intervention, the students record, analyse and evaluate the influencing factors on soil erosion by means of hands-on experiments (based on irrigated reference soil boxes) on the one hand, and abstract computer simulations (based on mathematical soil loss equations) on the other. Pre-post comparison is meant to show which approach helps students to understand selected aspects of geographic systems most effectively. According to Viehrig et al. the three dimensions of geographical system competence are (1) comprehending and analysing systems, (2) acting towards systems, and (3) spatial thinking. In comparison Rempfler & Uphues state the three dimensions (1) system organization, (2) system behavior, and (3) system adequate intention to act. Based on this, in the present study the following dimensions of geographical system understanding are distinguished: (1) analysing regions as systems, (2) deducing future scenarios for regions, and (3) courses of actions regarding regions.

To detect possible changes due to the respective intervention a test containing both concept-mapping and multiple-choice-items is developed. In addition, possible dependences on learning styles are investigated.






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