An analysis of the themes of environmental sustainability in the United States curriculum science content standards

Michelle Tenam-Zemach, Florida International University

Abstract

This study examined how the themes of environmental sustainability are evident in the national, state and local standards that guide k–12 science curriculum. The study applied the principles of content analysis within the framework of an ecological paradigm. In education, an ecological paradigm focuses on students' use of a holistic lens to view and understand material. The intent of this study was to analyze the seventh grade science content standards at the national, state, and local textbook levels to determine how and the extent to which each of the five themes of environmental sustainability are presented in the language of each text. The themes are: (a) Climate Change Indicators, (b) Biodiversity, (c) Human Population Density, (d) Impact and Presence of Environmental Pollution, (e) Earth as a Closed System. ^ The research study offers practical insight on using a method of content analysis to locate keywords of environmental sustainability in the three texts and determine if the context of each term relates to this ecological paradigm. Using a concordance program, the researcher identified the frequency and context of each vocabulary item associated with these themes. Nine chi squares were run to determine if there were differences in content between the national and state standards and the textbook. Within each level chi squares were also run to determine if there were differences between the appearance of content knowledge and skill words. Results indicate that there is a lack of agreement between levels that is significant p < .01. A discussion of these results in relation to curriculum development and standardized assessments followed. ^ The study found that at the national and state levels, there is a lack of articulation of the goals of environmental sustainability or an ecological paradigm. With respect to the science textbook, a greater number of keywords were present; however, the context of many of these keywords did not align with the discourse of an ecological paradigm. Further, the environmental sustainability themes present in the textbook were limited to the last four chapters of the text. Additional research is recommended to determine whether this situation also exists in other settings. ^

Subject Area

Education, Sciences|Education, Curriculum and Instruction

Recommended Citation

Michelle Tenam-Zemach, "An analysis of the themes of environmental sustainability in the United States curriculum science content standards" (January 1, 2007). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. Paper AAI3298599.
http://digitalcommons.fiu.edu/dissertations/AAI3298599

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