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Abstract :This paper will discuss how during teaching and learning in environmental education using a neuro-conservation approach is useful to promote active learning and the students' ability to integrate knowledge, as well as effectively motivate students; promote learning curiosity and develop creative abilities. This study will focus on postgraduate science education students. who enroll for The Environment and Its Sustainability course. Students will work in small groups of five, heterogeneous in terms of gender and age. This study will be restricted to global warming issues. The big idea for this intervention program is quite broad. At the end of this experience, students will describe how human activity can alter climate and the environment. They will study climate changes and how these changes correlate with human behaviour in relation to the changing earth. Students will generate conclusion based on their findings and predict future problems that could occur if human activities are not changed
Keywords: Neuroscience cognitive learning, brain based learning, problem based learning, environmental education
More than 30 years have passed since the appearance of Environmental Education in Malaysia, however expert still encounter difficulties integrating Environmental Education into academic programs the classroom. The existing curriculum should not only provide environmental awareness to students, but to prepare students to act on environmental problems (WWF, 2008)
Education is an essential tool for achieving a sustainable future. Environmental education is one of Sustainable Development agenda implemented through the education system. Various definitions of Environmental Education (EE) produced by several parties. UNESCO (1999) defines Environmental Education as a form of education or knowledge which includes such as physical aspect; environmental impact directly and indirectly; and interaction between the local communities and the impact of activities in a given time.
In Malaysia, the definition of the concept of Environmental Education is based on the definition issued by the Division of Teacher Education (1997) and Department of Environment and the Institute for Environment and Development University Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM SUSTAINABLE) (2004). According to both of these organizations, Environmental education involves learning to understand the interaction humans and the environment and how the environment is managed in a wise and responsible to the sustainability of life on Earth. It involves education about the environment to increase awareness, knowledge and understanding about environmental management wisely. While the process is said to involve education about the environment, through the environment and for the environment. byPalmer(1998), interaction between these three components can be seen as the Figure 1. Attempts are now being made by environmental educators to fully become interdisciplinary and reach beyond just the Science classroom. To become fully interdisciplinary, environmental education needs to reach out into all subjects; Math, English, Fine Arts and Social Studies, to mention a few. To leave the topic of the environment merely in the Science classrooms is to ignore the interdisciplinary nature of the issues involved with the environment. Students need to learn how to write about the environment, understand how environmental issues are dealt with in other countries, learn how historically the environment was treated, and the actual mathematical side of environmental problems, like the impact of oil spills on local ecosystems. There should be a greater emphasis on teaching about the environment, for the environment, and in the environment.
Figure Palmer, A model for blending together these components in environmental education.
This paper will discuss how during teaching and learning in environmental education using a neuro-conservation approach is useful to promote active learning and the students' ability to integrate knowledge, as well as effectively motivate students; promote learning curiosity and develop creative abilities. This study will focus on postgraduate science education students. who enroll for The Environment and Its Sustainability course. This focus age group is chosen because according to neurobiological development, during this post-puberty stage, the individual is ready to discuss heavy issues of ecological degradation(Puk, 2012)
ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION IN MALAYSIA EDUCATION SYSTEM
In the Malaysian school system, Environmental education was introduced through the infusion and integration approach; as well as introduced in relevant subjects such as English Language, Malay Language, Geography, Science, Local Studies, Civics and Citizenship. It was also infused through co-curricular activities such as Nature Clubs. The Curriculum Development Centre in the Ministry of Education has also developed and distributed a Teacher's Guide Book to infuse Environmental education across the primary and secondary school curriculum. However researches indicated that these approaches were generally not coordinated and not implemented effectively. Researches showed that till 2005 although Malaysians in general know and realize that the environment need to be taken care of, however most of them are not oriented to translating their knowledge into action.
Environmental Education allows every human being to acquire the knowledge, skills, attitudes and values necessary to shape a sustainable future. It also requires participatory teaching and learning methods that motivate and empower learners to change their behaviour and take action for sustainable development. Education for Sustainable Development consequently promotes competencies like critical thinking, imagining future scenarios and making decisions in a collaborative way.
Environmental Education requires far-reaching changes in the way education is often practised today. Environmental Education, is not simply about giving students information, but ensuring that education - and schools specifically - is mobilized to re-orient society towards sustainable practices
ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION APPROACH PROBLEM
Previous studies have shown that students in primary, secondary and higher education institutions in Malaysia have knowledge about the environment but possess low awareness of the environment (Daniel &Shafiee, 2006). Some related literature states that, low knowledge and awareness is due to failure to appreciate the values of the environment itself. To engage diverse students actively in classroom is to understand and interact within their unique worlds. Traditional teaching methods tend to neglect active student involvement, and so fail to tap their rich wells of diversity in class. When lessons do not accommodate students' interests and abilities as tools to achieve, learners lose interest and feel disengaged (Ronis 2008).
Some related literature states that, low knowledge and awareness is due to failure to appreciate the values of the environment itself. The problem arises from the difficulty of students to master the concepts of abstract environmental teaching. Students who do not understand the basic concept of the abstract environment is always looking for short cuts to memorize a concept but did not understand what was said. By just memorizing the concepts, meaningful learning environment does not occur. When meaningful learning does not occur, knowledge and awareness of the environment relatively will be low. This opinion is based on the Model of Responsible Environmental Behavior (Hungerford & Volk, 1990) which states that individuals with high knowledge and awareness of environmental will showed positive behavior towards the environment Hence, environmental education should incorporate elements that promote thinking and problem solving skills. Environmental education also having the difficulty of empowering students into meaningful action, the challenge of using innovative methods, the difficulties associated with values education, and deficiencies in teacher preparation (Thomas 2005).
Recognising the importance of the responsibility to protect our environment cultivated, the Environmental Education in Malaysia education system should be able to function efficiently to form a community that are sensitive and concerned about environmental issues and acquire the knowledge, skills, values and commitment to work and act individually or together toward solving environmental issues. Many will have positive attitude and knowledge about the environment but fail to reflect environmental values in terms of their commitment towards environment (Kollmuss & Agyemen 2002). However, knowledge about environmental issues per se can't be the only determinant for pro-environmental behavior, other factors also play an important role (SitiNurDiyana Mahmud &Kamisah Osman 2010).
Teaching and learning approaches adopted in Environmental Education was also found to be less effective in generating optimum learning potential of students with learning style preferences vary. This is because generally practiced method is just give priority to certain groups of students in the classroom. Teaching often emphasizes linear information processing approach (Lourdusamy, 1994). This method is found only in favor of the students who have left brain dominance and less able to attract students who are dominated by the ability of the right brain (Sousa 1995). Consequently, only students with specific learning styles benefit from teaching while the others were less keen to learn. When subject areas are taught in a conventional format, they are taken out of their natural context and presented to learners as independent and isolated units. Unfortunately, this traditional format operates in opposition to the brain's natural way of integrating and processing new information (Ronis 2008).
According to that problem, therefore various approaches in teaching and learning have been explored for the purpose to enhance learning environmental education. Recently one of the areas have been concerned by the educational communities is the potential of Problem-based Learning with consideration of neuroscience cognitive elements to promote environmental education. Problem-based Learning approach appears to be a potential method to inculcate students with sustainable knowledge, since it require action on the ground, to provide students with opportunity to apply their knowledge into practice (Steinemann, 2003).
Proposed neuroscience cognitive approach is one of the suitable methods to overcome problems as described earlier. This approach taking into account relevant aspects of the principle of the brain capacity to generate meaningful learning. With different primary structures (reptiles brain, midbrain/ limbic system and neocortex), the brain requires specific approach to operate at its optimum. Neuro-conservation approach which taking into consideration the emotional climate, teaching strategies and reinforcing strategies can enhance the brain's learning. The changing nature of the neuroplasticity of the brain may also have implications for lifelong ecological literacy and provides direction towards the restructuring that schooling may require in order to influence global efforts to deal with ecological degradation. This involves the manner in which internal representations (the content of neural networks) are laid down in human beings during childhood and the resulting resistance to change during adulthood(Puk, 2012).
Neuroscientists are just beginning to understanding how brain development is related to aspect of adolescence such as risk taking, decision making, and managing impulsive behaviours. It is the job of the prefrontal cortex to control these impulses through reason, planning or delay of gratification. But the impulse inhibiting capacities of the brain are not present at birth. Research now indicates that it take at least two decades for the biological processes of brain development to produce a fully functional prefrontal cortex (Weinberger, 2001). Thus middle and high school students still lack the brain development to balance impulse with reason and planning.
Figure 2 visualizes the neuro-conservation approach. The approach integrates principles of brain-based learning and problem based learning. The Brain Based Teaching Approach advocates three instructional techniques: Orchestrated Immersion (creates a learning environment that fully immerses students in many educational experiences), Relaxed Alertness (eliminates fear in the learners while maintaining highly challenging environments) and, Active Processing (allows the learner to consolidate and internalize information by actively processing it). According to this theory, each education should integrate all of these elements:
a) Relaxed Alerteness
i. The brain learns best in its optimal state.
ii. The brain's cognitive cycle influences the learning process.
iii. Emotions are critical to the brain's patterning process.
iv. Learning is enhanced by challenge and inhibited by threat.
v. Positive climate stimulates brain function.
vi. Appropriate environment, music and aroma exvite brain activity.
b) Orchestrated Immersion
i. The brain is a parallel processor it able to perform multi activities in the same time.
ii. Search for meaning comes through brain patterning process.
iii. The brain processor works in wholes and parts simultaneously
iv. Complex and active experiences involving movements stimulate the brain development.
v. Learning engages the whole physiology.
c) Active Processing
i. Learning involves both focused attention and peripheral perception.
ii. Learning involves both conscious and unconscious processes.
iii.Learning always takes place in two memory approaches - to retain facts, skills and procesures and making sense of experience.
iv. The brain can easily grasp and remember facts and skills embedded in its memory space.
Figure Neuro-conservation approach model
Figure The PBL learning principles (Based on the works of Graaff&Kolmos 2003, Kolmos&Graaff 2007)
In this neuro-conservation approach these three instructional techniques (orchestrated immersion, relaxed alertness and active processing) are implemented across the entire process of learning. The integration of these learning optimum state elements is believed to be able to fulfill various learning requirements whilst fostering interest among students to learn. This is due to the fact that the shift from teaching to learning is considered the most important innovative aspect of this educational concept, and consequently, the task of the teacher is altered from transferring knowledge into facilitating the learning process of the students (Kolmos 2006). This approach is expected to stimulate and generate conceptual understanding and motivation to learn, 21st century skills and environmental awareness among students and hence increase their learning potential of a learning style preferences vary.
In neuro-conservation approach, the PBL principles suggested by de Graaff and Kolmos (2003) is adopted. In general, de Graaff and Kolmos (de Graaff and Kolmos 2003, Kolmos and de Graaff 2007) summarize the main learning principles in three approaches: cognitive learning, collaborative learning and contents (See Figure 3).
(1) The cognitive learning approach
Learning is organised around problems and will be carried out in projects. It is a fundamental principle for the development of motivation. A problem provides the starting point for the learning process, places learning in a context, and bases learning on the learner's experience.
(2) The contents approach
This approach especially concerns interdisciplinary learning, which not only stresses but also spans traditional subject-related restrictions and techniques. It is exemplary practice in the sense that the learning outcome provides a good example of the overall objectives. Furthermore, it supports the relation between theory and practice by demonstrating the fact that the learning process involves an analytical approach using theory in the analysis of problems and problem-solving methods.
(3) The social approach is team-based learning. The team learning aspect shows the learning process as a social act in which learning takes place through dialogue and communication. Furthermore, the students are not only learning from each other, but they also learn to share knowledge and organize the process of collaborative learning. The social approach also covers the concept of participant-directed learning, which indicates a collective ownership of the learning process and, especially, the identification of the problem.
Stonewater (2005) argues that the best way for teachers to equip learners with the skills and attitudes they need is through problem solving and inquiry learning. Learning should involve the use of inadequately structured problems, problem that provide only minimum amount of information, just enough to guide the investigation. In relation to Environmental Education in Biology, this theoretical background paves the way for the employment of neuro-conservation approach as an innovative strategy for subsequent educational design (See Figure 3).
By its very nature, the problem-based approach requires an organizational framework which is similar to detective work. By first identifying specific focus questions and then proceeding through systematic research for answers, students learn the discipline of logic along with the excitement of mental connection that click, resulting in insight and epiphany. The urgent need for and emphasis on interactivity in the learning process is directly linked to the idea that each learner actively creates his or her own knowledge through direct and meaningful experience (Ronis 2008).
When students explore information through a variety of different instructional approaches, they often become more interested in and receptive to the subjects they are studying. Because the brain is functioning with greater efficacy through these varied approaches, students are able to invest more of their mental energy in learning and thereby commit concept to memory with greater comprehension (Cowley & Underwood 1998).
Additionally, using neuro-conservation approach allows teachers to help their students become successful in most of these areas, including learning/innovation skills; information, media and technology skills; and life/career skills. Depending upon the PBL scenario, many of the core subjects and themes can also be included. As students work together to define the problem, find and evaluate evidence and reconsider the problem from multiple angles, they develop higher order thinking, problem-solving, collaboration and communication skills. These skills are transferable to all contexts, in school settings as well as in real-life. Research indicates that the use of PBL enhances problem-solving skills and effective reasoning strategies, while increasing long-term student retention and application of knowledge (Goodnough & Cashion, 2006; Strobel & van Barneveld, 2009). PBL also has the potential as an effective learning approach in Environmental Education (Clara Vasconcelos 2010). In PBL, scenarios relating to real life are used as a point of departure for the learning process. In this learning approach, the ill structured nature of the problems not only personally relevant to the students, but address timely community issues and thus establishing a valid connection with the learners themselves.
PHASES OF IMPLEMENTATION
A neuro-conservation intervention program will be implemented for postgraduate science education students. Students will work in small groups of five, heterogeneous in terms of gender and age. This study will be restricted to global warming issues. The big idea for this intervention program is quite broad. At the end of this experience, students will describe how human activity can alter climate and the environment. They will study climate changes and how these changes correlate with human behaviour in relation to the changing earth. Students will generate conclusion based on their findings and predict future problems that could occur if human activities are not changed. In addition, students will suggest possible solutions to change current patterns in the climate change. The focus will be to create solutions that are fact based and practical. Solutions should span personal, local and global changes that could decrease global warming.
The program will comprise six lesson (45 minute each) and one field trip. The instruction will be implemented within a period of approximately 6 weeks. The seven week course will be based on the three main phases considered as the compulsory axis in PBL program: a) Involvement in the program, b) Solving the problem within group work and c) evaluation of the learning process. A field trip will be organised in order to present the problem within an appropriate context. Prior to beginning this neuro-conservation learning lesson, respondents will be given pre-test of global warming conceptual understanding. This provides the researcher with one summative assessment that compare the repondents growt and learning prior to the lesson experience and following the activity.
This study will evaluate respondents' motivation to learn, environmental awareness, conceptual understanding about global warming and also respondents' 21st century skills.
In neuro-conservation approach, teacher needs to help learners build their own problem-solving skill and thinking abilities while teaching the content necessary to apply those skills.
Table 1. Phase of Implementation Neuro-Conservation Approach
Brain Based Learning Principles
Involvement in the program
Activity 1: Class Discussion and Hyphothesis Generation
Task: Students are given a real-life problem statement. Students "brainstrom" and suggest the kind of infromation or data that they would need to answer the question posed.
Activate the memory processor system and student's prior knowledge to stimulate the transfer process.
- The teacher begins the learning process by developing a real world open ended problem. This problem is related to the unit that is being taught in that it should involve the application of the content skills and concepts covered.
Learning is enhanced by challenge and inhibited by threat.
Emotions are critical to the brain's patterning process.
Solving the problem within group work
Activity 2:Field Sampling
Task:The choice of the field site should be based on easy of sampling. The student guide gives the students a brief outline of the bioassessment physical parameter procedures that they will perform in the fiels.
Acivity 3: Class Meeting
Task:Each team will meet and with the help of the instructor, decide what the data they have collected may mead to their hypotheses and what information yet needs be obtained.
Activity 4:Class Meeting
Task: Students are encourage to discuss and form a plan of action especially in regard to the laboratory data they need. Some students may have already done this and may begin actual laboratory work.
Activity 5:Action Items/ Laboratory Work
Task:Instructor needs to be available to consult with the students before they begin their work so they have a clear idea of what they need to do and advise.
Activity 6: Class Meeting
Task:Students share information and draw final conclusions concerning their assignment. They begin planning their posters and position papers.
Activate the right brain processor prior to the left brain.
Alleviate anxieties over accessibility and relevance material.
The stage for brain active processing
The stage for digesting, thinking about, reflecting on and making sense of experience utilizing visualization, auditory, kinesthetic in multiple context.
Locating and Identifying Resources
The second phase, the resources phase refer to the stage when students gather data as well as acquire learning resources and engage in experiences.
The brain is a parallel processor it able to perform multi activities in the same time.
Search for meaning comes through brain patterning process.
The brain processor works in wholes and parts simultaneously
Complex and active experiences involving movements stimulate the brain development.
Learning engages the whole physiology.
Learning involves both focused attention and peripheral perception.
Learning involves both conscious and unconscious processes.
Learning always takes place in two memory approaches - to retain facts, skills and procesures and making sense of experience.
The brain can easily grasp and remember facts and skills embedded in its memory space.
Evaluation of the learning process
Activity 7: Final Assessment
Task: In this activity, students will be asked to present their posters and conduct a formal evaluation of the posters of the other groups. Additionally, each student will hand in the position paper that support his/her conclusion to the problem.
The activity stimulates working memory to summarize the lesson
In the final phase, the problem analysis phase, the teacher role is to encourage students to offer answers, hypotheses and reflection that may consist of either closed or open activities inquiries.
The brain is a parallel processor it able to perform multi activities in the same time
. Learning involves both focused attention and peripheral perception.
Learning involves both conscious and unconscious processes
The purpose of neuro-conservation approach is to help educators make sense of current research in the neuroscience and the resulting implication for environmental education and science instruction. Research indicates that an integrated approach to learning aligns with the way brain naturally processes and internalizes new information. However, problem based learning alone is no guarantee that learning will take place. Students also need reflection and interpretation to make sense of learning activities and for locating activities in a wider framework of meaning and purpose.,
This paper seminally highlights the integrative principles of brain-based learning and problem-based learning that were previously studied independently. The integration of these two theories becomes a basis for neuro-conservation approach. Arguably, neuro-conservation approach is also capable in enriching the idea of teaching and learning methods based on the architecture of the brain that can be implemented in accordance with holistic learning strategies. To say the least, neuro-conservation approach is expected to increase the students' motivation to study Environmental Education and instill environmental awareness. This will lead to subsequent improvement of their understanding of Biological concept and nourish their 21st century skills.