An Investigation of Preservice Teachers’ Engagement and Perceptions of Science Learning in Outdoor Learning Environments
MetadataShow full metadata
Science education programs that use both formal and informal instruction provide students with more engaging experiences than when only using traditional instruction. However, educators often do not know of, or are uncomfortable with using informal resources. Thus, understanding how educators view and experience science learning in informal environments is necessary for increasing the likelihood that these educators will integrate informal science resources into their curricula. The purpose of this study is to investigate relationships amongst preservice teacher engagement during informal, outdoor learning activities, and perceptions about using informal resources during their future teaching career. During this study, preservice teachers (n=5) took part in a one- day, nature-based fieldtrip as part of a General Science education course. During this fieldtrip, they learned science content and how to teach science in a fieldtrip setting. Using a four-dimensional framework of engagement (i.e., behavioral, cognitive, affective, agentic), I analyzed video, eye-tracking, and interview data to identify moments of engagement, preservice teachers’ perceptions of the fieldtrip, and their integration ideas for using outdoor learning environments in their future teaching career. Participants’ actions indicated their engagement across all four dimensions. Participants thought highly of using outdoor learning environments as potential teaching tools, and could identify some way they could integrate them into future teaching practices. No clear relationship existed between observable engagement actions and preservice teachers’ future integration ideas; However, participants’ overall past experiences with informal learning environments (including the General Science fieldtrip) appeared to largely influence their perceptions and integration ideas. Participants who had no prior teaching experiences drew primarily on their experiences as a student, whereas participants with informal and formal teaching experiences drew upon their experiences as a teacher more than their experiences as a student. Observable engagement actions and interview responses also suggested some participants underwent personally meaningful learning experiences.