Shifting Paradigms in Secondary Science Classrooms: Teaching and Learning from an Ecological Perspective

By Sharon Pelech and William Pelech.

Published by The International Journal of Interdisciplinary Educational Studies

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This paper explores ecological learning theory and how it disrupts the present understanding of knowledge, intelligence, and the individual. In the education system, intelligence is seen as the basic capacity for competence; reasoning, as the activity that generates competence (St. Julien, 2000, p. 254). The common language here points to the Cartesian idea that knowledge is something that is outside the individual and that intelligence is an attribute within the individual that allows them to make use of this knowledge. Educational practices are built upon these assumptions that something must be "done" to the student to help them acquire and apply this knowledge. Ecological learning theory’s fundamental understanding of intelligence breaks away from this paradigm and offers a very different understanding of cognition and intelligence. Moving the focus of education from studying about the world towards being part of the world means that a completely different way is needed to understand knowledge and learning (Davis, Sumara and Luce-Kapler, 2000). This means the definition of what learning is has burst open to incorporate many experiences and interactions compared to the traditional narrow definition of learning. From this frame, we will explore the implications for teachers and students in a secondary science classroom.

Keywords: Ecological Learning Theory, Learning Theory, Secondary Science, Curriculum, Pedagogy, Intelligence, Intelligence

The International Journal of Interdisciplinary Educational Studies, Volume 7, Issue 4, pp.41-51. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 296.872KB).

Dr. Sharon Pelech

Assistant Professor, Faculty of Education, Memorial University of Newfoundland, St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada

Sharon Pelech is presently an assistant professor at Memorial University of Newfoundland and a PhD candidate in interpretive studies in the Graduate Division of Educational Research at the University of Calgary, Canada. She has taught in the teacher-education programs in Alberta at the undergraduate level and Newfoundland in the graduate and undergraduate level. Previously, she taught biology and science for over twenty years at the junior and senior high school level in the Northwest Territories, Northern Alberta, as well as urban Calgary.

Dr. William Pelech

Associate Professor, Social Work, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

William Pelech, PhD (Wilfrid Laurier), was appointed as an assistant professor at the University of Calgary in 1999. He has had extensive teaching experience in rural, remote, and Aboriginal communities in the Canadian provinces of Alberta and British Columbia. Recently, he has developed and now coordinates the Virtual Learning Circle (VLC). The BSW Virtual Learning Circle is a new initiative by the Faculty of Social Work at the University of Calgary intended to enhance the accessibility of our undergraduate social work education program to rural, remote, and aboriginal students. The VLC offers the core BSW Learning Circles curriculum through a blended learning approach that integrates the best of distance education technology (including Blackboard and Elluminate) with face-to-face learning opportunities. The VLC is intended for students who are unable to complete course offerings at one of the faculty campus-based locations.