Exploring preservice teachers mental models of the environment

This study was designed to examine how preservice teachers define what an environment is through drawings. A content analysis was done of the drawings using the instrument Draw-An-Environment Test and Rubric (DAET-R) to determine the preservice teachers’ ideas about the environment. The DAET-R was developed from the NAAEE Guidelines for the Initial Preparation of Environmental Educators (2000). The NAAEE Guidelines state that preservice teachers should be able to “describe the broad view that environmental education takes of ‘environment,’ incorporating concepts such as systems, interdependence, and interactions among humans, other living organisms, the physical environment, and the built or designed environment” (p. 9). We used this statement to develop the DAET-R using each of the four factors - humans, other living organisms (biotic), physical environment (abiotic) and the built or designed environment as rubric categories for scoring the drawings. Results of this pilot study suggest that these participants’ mental models of the environment are incomplete when compared to the NAAEE Guidelines (2000). Sixty percent of the preservice teachers did not include humans as a factor in their drawings, with only 5% indicating a systems approach with humans interacting with other factors. In contrast, two-thirds included items of the built or designed factor in their drawings. For preservice teachers, the word ‘environment’ produced mental images that did not depict the more naturalistic images of the environment as proposed by the NAAEE Guidelines (2000).