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Assessing the influence of field- and GIS-based inquiry on student attitude and conceptual knowledge in an undergraduate ecology lab.

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CBE life sciences education

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      Combining field experience with use of information technology has the potential to create a problem-based learning environment that engages learners in authentic scientific inquiry. This study, conducted over a 2-yr period, determined differences in attitudes and conceptual knowledge between students in a field lab and students with combined field and geographic information systems (GIS) experience. All students used radio-telemetry equipment to locate fox squirrels, while one group of students was provided an additional data set in a GIS to visualize and quantify squirrel locations. Pre/postsurveys and tests revealed that attitudes improved in year 1 for both groups of students, but differences were minimal between groups. Attitudes generally declined in year 2 due to a change in the authenticity of the field experience; however, attitudes for students that used GIS declined less than those with field experience only. Conceptual knowledge also increased for both groups in both years. The field-based nature of this lab likely had a greater influence on student attitude and conceptual knowledge than did the use of GIS. Although significant differences were limited, GIS did not negatively impact student attitude or conceptual knowledge but potentially provided other benefits to learners.

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      [1 ] Department of Ecosystem Science and Management, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX 77843, USA.
      CBE Life Sci Educ
      CBE life sciences education
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