Examining Environmental Education Knowledge and Skills gained in the Master's for K-12 Teachers Program
University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, College of Natural Resources
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Teachers seek Master’s programs as one way of continuing their professional development in their journey of lifelong learning. The purpose of this research is to evaluate one of those Master’s programs, the Master of Science in Natural Resources in Environmental Education for K-12 Teachers (MSNREE) program offered since 1992 by the Wisconsin Center for Environmental Education (WCEE) within the College of Natural Resources (CNR) at the University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point (UWSP). As in any program, initiative or endeavor, it is always important to evaluate progress and outcomes to make sure you are meeting your goals and objectives. This research verified that the National Council for Accreditation for Teacher Education standards for the preparation of teachers in environmental education (NCATE EE Standards 2007) are taught as part of the MSNREE program. Through a questionnaire, graduates were asked about the skills and knowledge they gained though the program correlating to the NCATE EE Standards. Knowledge gained from this research informs faculty and staff on improvements needed to courses or components of the program. Further, exploring if environmental topics and citizen engagement strategies are being taught in graduates’ classrooms provides evidence that perceptions of EE knowledge and skills gained are accurate. Additionally, this research explores the leadership skills that graduates utilize to advance environmental education. The results of the questionnaire show that graduates agree that the MSNREE was responsible for increasing their knowledge and skills corresponding to the NCATE EE standards. Improvement is called for in addressing technology, diverse students’ learning needs, and assessment strategies within the MSNREE curriculum. Graduates are reporting that they teach many environmental topics in their classrooms, but some graduates still have barriers to fully implement environmental education in their curriculum. Graduates recognize the support structure they have within the network of professionals with which they matriculated and with local and statewide EE programs. Local leadership is demonstrated by our graduates but many have not advanced their leadership to the state or national level.