Date of Award


Document Type

Masters Plan B

Degree Name

Master of Science in Education (MSEd)


Science & Mathematics Teaching Center


Sylvia Parker


Contemporary understanding of our nervous system supports the contention that environment is inexorably linked to learning; that all experiences are learning experiences and all learning is experiential (Gooding & Metz, 2011; Hayward, 2012; Wilson, 1999). Public education systems in the US grew to accommodate cultural developments and were not designed to implement experiential education (Bishop & Scott, 1998; Dewey, 1915; Hayward, 2012). Ecologists and sociologists agree that global population growth and development are pushing our society to a precipice where traditional methods of production, valuation, and resource management become inadequate (IPCC, 2014; Proctor, Smith, & Wallace, 2013; Steffen & McNeill, 2007; Tietenberg & Lewis, 2012). Respected analysts from multiple disciplines have consistently expressed a need to update our system to one in which public good and sustainable development are guiding principles (Morton, 2012; Proctor, Smith, & Wallace, 2013; Steffen & McNeill, 2007; White, 1967). A populace that is informed and able to engage in collaborative environmental problem solving will foster this transition (Daniels & Walker, 2001; Hayward, 2012).

The objective of this study is to provide a synthesis of theoretical and experimental support for the claim that students who practice cooperative science learning through the Conceptual Change Model (CCM) may be better prepared to address environmental issues as collaborative citizens. Learning activities based on the CCM of knowledge acquisition developed by Schmidt, Saigo, and Stepans (2001) are analogous to effective collaborative environmental problem solving processes put forth by Daniels and Walker in Working through environmental conflict: The collaborative learning approach (2001). Some theorists recommend that methods be augmented with cultural knowledge to extend connection to place (Sinatra, 2005; Zhou, 2012). Based on the results of this academic investigation, I conclude the use of CCM to be potentially effective in encouraging development of skills common to environmental problem solving. I propose a commitment to creating lifelong learners adept at integrative collaboration be adopted as a universal goal of public education. Meaningful experiential learning can incorporate critical thinking and cooperative problem solving while accommodating individual cognitive ecologies.