Advertisement

Science & Education

, Volume 27, Issue 9–10, pp 895–919 | Cite as

Challenging Students’ Belief in the ‘Balance of Nature’ Idea

The Emergence of a Design Theory
  • Georgios AmpatzidisEmail author
  • Marida Ergazaki
Article

Abstract

This article reports on the theoretical output of a design research study, which concerns the design of a learning environment (LE) for helping students challenge the ‘balance of nature’-idea and reach an up-to-date understanding about ecosystems’ contingency. Our focus is set on whether it is feasible to articulate an empirically tested theory of teaching/learning about contingency in nature while designing our LE. The study included an exploratory phase (EP) and three research cycles (RC1–3). The participants were first year educational sciences students who collaboratively explored computer models that simulated ecosystems’ response to changes, in order to understand the underlying contingency. In the EP, we defined learning objectives/design criteria that informed the LE’s first version. This was driven by the global/overall question of how ecosystems may function, which was explored through inter-connected local/partial questions with the aid of scaffold questions embedded in worksheets linked to the computer models. Drawing upon the RC1 results, we introduced two-version models for each change that the peer groups had to explore and assigned the first version to half and the second to the other half. These changes made it through RC2-RC3 and account for key features of the study’s theoretical output, the ‘Bifurcated Domino Path Approach’. The RC3 results show that it works effectively, and thus, we suggest that the design of LEs addressing contingency in ecosystem’s response can integrate bifurcated domino paths with several (a) forks, where some peer groups explore one version of the target phenomenon and others an alternative one and (b) meeting points, where they all share their different, contingency-indicating conclusions.

Notes

Funding Information

This study was funded by the Research Committee of the University of Patras via Constantin Carathéodory 2010 project; it was also partly funded by the A.G. Leventis Foundation.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

References

  1. Akker, J. V. D., Gravemeijer, K., McKenney, S., & Nieveen, N. (Eds.). (2006). Educational Design Research. Oxon, England: Routledge.Google Scholar
  2. Ampatzidis, G., & Ergazaki, M. (2014). Towards a learning environment for challenging the idea of the balanced nature: Insights from the first cycle of research. In C. P. Constantinou, N. Papadouris, & A. Hadjigeorgiou (Eds.), E-Book Proceedings of the ESERA 2013 Conference: Science Education Research For Evidence-based Teaching and Coherence in Learning. Part 3 (pp. 44–54). Nicosia, Cyprus: European Science Education Research Association.Google Scholar
  3. Ampatzidis, G., & Ergazaki, M. (2016). Can the idea of “balance of nature” be effectively challenged within a model-based learning environment? Insights from the second cycle of developmental research. In T. Tal & A. Yarden (Eds.), The Future of Biology Education Research (pp. 7–20). Haifa: ERIDOB.Google Scholar
  4. Ampatzidis, G., & Ergazaki, M. (2017a). Toward an “anti-balance of nature” learning environment for non-biology major students: Learning objectives and design criteria. Natural Sciences Education, 46(1).Google Scholar
  5. Ampatzidis, G., & Ergazaki, M. (2017b). Using ecology to enhance everyday reasoning: The case of interdependent and reciprocal causality. Review of Science, Mathematics and ICT Education, 11(1), 93–104.Google Scholar
  6. Ampatzidis, G., & Ergazaki, M. (2017c). Using ecosystem simulation models to teach about the ‘resilient nature.’. In A. Lionarakis, S. Ioakimidou, M. Niari, E. Manousou, T. Hartofylaka, S. Papadimitriou, & A. Apostolidou (Eds.), Proceedings of the 9th International Conference in Open & Distance Learning: The Learning Design, Volume 6, Part B (pp. 224–231). Athens: Hellenic Open University and Hellenic Network of Open and Distance Education.Google Scholar
  7. Ampatzidis, G., & Ergazaki, M. (2018). Can the idea of the ‘balanced nature’ be challenged? Students’ reasoning about disturbed and protected ecosystems after a teaching intervention and one year later. In N. Gericke & M. Grace (Eds.), Challenges in Biology Education Research (pp. 20–36). Karlstad: ERIDOB.Google Scholar
  8. Boersma, K., & Waarlo, A. J. (2009). On the theoretical input and output of ‘design research’ in biology education. In I. M. Hammann, A. J. Waarlo, & K. Boersma (Eds.), The Nature of Research in Biological Education: Old and New Perspectives on Theoretical and Methodological Issues (pp. 463–479). Ultrecht: CD-ß Press.Google Scholar
  9. Clements, F. E. (1916). Plant succession: An analysis of the development of vegetation. Washington, DC: Carnegie Institution of Washington.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Cooper, G. (2001). Must there be a balance of nature? Biology and Philosophy, 16(4), 481–506.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Cuddington, K. (2001). The “balance of nature” metaphor and equilibrium in population ecology. Biology and Philosophy, 16(4), 463–479.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Driver, R., Asoko, H., Leach, J., Scott, P., & Mortimer, E. (1994). Constructing scientific knowledge in the classroom. Educational Researcher, 23(7), 5–12.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Egerton, F. N. (1973). Changing concepts of the balance of nature. The Quarterly Review of Biology, 48(2), 322–350.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Eilam, B. (2012). System thinking and feeding relations: Learning with a live ecosystem model. Instructional Science, 40(2), 213–239.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Engeström, Y. (1981). The Laws of nature and the origin of life in pupils’ consciousness: A study of contradictory modes of thought. Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research, 25(2), 39–61.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Ergazaki, M., & Ampatzidis, G. (2012). Students’ reasoning about the future of disturbed or protected ecosystems & the idea of the ‘balance of nature. Research in Science Education, 42(3), 511–530.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Gibbs, G. R. (2005). Qualitative Data Analysis: Explorations with NVivo. Maidenhead, England: Open University Press.Google Scholar
  18. Gleason, H. A. (1926). The individualistic concept of the plant association. Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club, 53(1), 7–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Gould, S. J. (2011). Full house: The spread of excellence from Plato to Darwin. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press.Google Scholar
  20. Gunderson, L. H., Allen, C. R., & Holling, C. S. (Eds.). (2010). Foundations of ecological resilience. Washington, DC: Island Press.Google Scholar
  21. Gunderson, L. H., & Holling, C. S. (Eds.). (2002). Panarchy: Understanding transformations in human and natural systems. Washington, DC: Island Press.Google Scholar
  22. Hobbs, R. J., & Morton, S. R. (1999). Moving from descriptive to predictive ecology. Agroforestry Systems, 45(1–3), 43–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Hokayem, H., & Gotwals, A. W. (2016). Early elementary students’ understanding of complex ecosystems: A learning progression approach. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 53(10), 1524–1545.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Hokayem, H., Ma, J., & Jin, H. (2015). A learning progression for feedback loop reasoning at lower elementary level. Journal of Biological Education, 49(3), 246–260.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Holling, C. S. (1973). Resilience and stability of ecological systems. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics, 4(1), 1–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Hovardas, T., & Korfiatis, K. (2011). Towards a critical re-appraisal of ecology education: Scheduling an educational intervention to revisit the ‘balance of nature’ metaphor. Science & Education, 20(10), 1039–1053.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Jansen, A. J. (1972). An analysis of “balance in nature” as an ecological concept. Acta Biotheoretica, 21(1–2), 86–114.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Jelinski, D. E. (2005). There is no mother nature-there is no balance of nature: Culture, ecology and conservation. Human Ecology, 33(2), 276–285.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Jiménez-Aleixandre, M.-P. (2002). Knowledge producers or knowledge consumers? Argumentation and decision making about environmental management. International Journal of Science Education, 24(11), 1171–1190.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Jordan, R. C., Brooks, W. R., Hmelo-Silver, C., Eberbach, C., & Sinha, S. (2014). Balancing broad ideas with context: An evaluation of student accuracy in describing ecosystem processes after a system-level intervention. Journal of Biological Education, 48(2), 57–62.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Kingsland, S. E. (1985). Modeling Nature. Chicago: University Of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  32. Klaassen, C. W. J. M. (1995). A problem-posing approach to teaching the topic of radioactivity. Ultrecht: CD-ß Press.Google Scholar
  33. Knippels, M. C. P. J. (2002). Coping with the abstract and complex nature of genetics in biology education-the yo-yo learning and teaching strategy. Ultrecht: CD-ß Press.Google Scholar
  34. Kricher, J. (2009). The balance of nature: Ecology’s enduring myth. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  35. Ladle, R. J., & Gillson, L. (2009). The (im)balance of nature: A public perception time-lag? Public Understanding of Science, 18(2), 229–242.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Lijnse, P., & Klaassen, K. (2004). Didactical structures as an outcome of research on teaching–learning sequences? International Journal of Science Education, 26(5), 537–554.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. McIntosh, R. P. (1985). The Background of Ecology: Concept and Theory. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  38. McKenney, S., & Reeves, T. C. (2012). Conducting educational design research. New York, NY: Routledge.Google Scholar
  39. Pimm, S. L. (1991). The balance of nature: Ecological issues in the conservation of species and communities. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  40. Sander, E., Jelemenska, P., & Kattmann, U. (2006). Towards a better understanding of ecology. Journal of Biological Education, 40(3), 119–123.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Scheffer, M. (2009). Critical transitions in nature and society. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  42. Schmitz, O. (2010). Resolving ecosystem complexity. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  43. Walker, B., & Salt, D. (2006). Resilience thinking: Sustaining ecosystems and people in a changing world. Washington, DC: Island Press.Google Scholar
  44. Wallington, T. J., Hobbs, R. J., & Moore, S. A. (2005). Implications of current ecological thinking for biodiversity conservation: A review of the salient issues. Ecology and Society, 10(1).Google Scholar
  45. Westra, R. (2008). Learning and teaching ecosystem behaviour in secondary education. Castricum: Faculteit Betawetenschappen.Google Scholar
  46. Wilensky, U. (1999). Netlogo. http://ccl.northwestern.edu/netlogo/. Center for Connected Learning and Computer-Based Modeling, Northwestern University. Evanston, IL.
  47. Zimmerman, C., & Cuddington, K. (2007). Ambiguous, circular and polysemous: Students’ definitions of the “balance of nature” metaphor. Public Understanding of Science, 16(4), 393–406.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Hellenic Open UniversityPatrasGreece
  2. 2.Department of Educational Sciences and Early Childhood EducationUniversity of PatrasRio-PatrasGreece

Personalised recommendations