To test our hypotheses there will be two phases to our study. In the first phase (year one), we will establish which factors may contribute most to coastal literacy through assessment of students. Next, we will use intervention strategy-bases approach to test whether participating in factors from Phase I can increase coastal literacy values among lower performing schools. We acknowledge that there are many factors that may contribute synergistically to the development of coastal literacy among students in high school. That no factor may explain the majority of the variance; however, evidence suggests that certain factors can contribute to successful learning of complex subjects. We have identified four factors contributing to coastal literacy.
Factors that Influence Coastal Literacy
1. Involvement in field-based experiences.
2. Curricular context and length of engagement (e.g. a section within general biology vs. a full marine/ocean science course)
3. Proximity to accessible coastal areas or related resources.
4. Teacher preparation/development and orientation to coastal science.
Phase One: Assessment of Coastal Literacy among High Schools Students
We will utilize Survey Monkey to distribute a survey to identify varying factors between schools. The surveys for students will be used to explain variance in average levels of student growth on our pre/post-measure of coastal literacy. The surveys for teachers will also address their perceptions of what contributes to students' coastal literacy. This approach will allow us to investigate the relationship between what teachers believe is important and what factors are shown to correlate with coastal literacy. Participants will be identified via the listservs of Connecticut's Science Teacher Association, the Southern New England Marine Educators Association and the Connecticut Outdoor and Environmental Education Association.
Teacher participants will then be asked to administer a Connecticut-specific version of an established assessment of ocean literacy to their students. We will use the Survey of Ocean Literacy and Engagement (SOLE; Greely, Lodge, 2009); pers. comm. to use survey) as our model for the CT-specific assessment. More than 50 science teachers have expressed interest in working with us on this project. The questions will be designed to asses student's comprehensive knowledge of the coastal system. Specific question for the survey will be created in conjunction with high school science teachers, coastal scientists, and education researchers. The questions will use the framing and survey structure of the SOLE, which includes a multiple choice exam corresponding to each other essential principles of ocean literacy, which relate to a knowledge of the topic, environmental morality, and environmental attitudes. The CT-specific questions will be framed around what we have identified as the five principles f Coastal Literacy.
Phase Two: Intervention
After identifying which factors contribute to student's coastal literacy, we will generate a set of recommended intervention strategies. We will then quantitatively test these recommendations by providing lower performing schools with resources to implement a strategy of their choosing. We will suggest a strategy but allow them to select one they are interested in implementing in order to encourage fit and support buy-in for implementation. The effect of the factors may be synergistic. Results may indicate that any one factor only contributes a small portion to the variance in scores. While schools that have more than one factor may see a disproportionate increase in scores compared to the expected increase from each individual factor. That is, a combination of factors may have a multiplicative, not linear effect. Depending on the results, and associated cost, we will evaluate this possibility during phase two.
Principles of Coastal Literacy
1. The Coastal Shores are Dynamic.
2. The coastal environment affects the climate and weather of CT.
3. The coastal system is important to the financial solvency of Connecticut.
4. Every Connecticut resident is connected to the coasts.
Survey of Students
Evaluations will be conducted at the beginning and end of the academic year to determine growth in coastal literacy across a curriculum. The grade class (eg 9, 10, etc.) will be established by evaluating when high schools typically introduce marine-science related material, or the concepts needed to understand them.