Analyzing Factors Affecting Knowledge and Defensibility of Attitudes Toward Wetlands

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Center for Science and Math Education

First Advisor

Rosalina V. Hairston

Advisor Department

Center for Science and Math Education


This study compared the relative merits of using field study as a way to increase environmental knowledge and attitudes in high school biology students from South Mississippi. This was done using the issue-investigation approach through field studies in wetlands located on or within walking distance of school property. Environmental concern levels and reasons used by students in environmental decision making were investigated. The Wetland Ecology Test and Wetland Issues Attitude Defensibility Inventory used in this study were developed by the author and the investigator of the project where they were initially used. These tests were content validated by experts in the fields of science and science education and the reliability was established through pilot studies. The subjects in this study were 328 students from intact biology classes in South Mississippi high schools. The experimental design used was the Nonequivalent Control Group Quasi Experimental Design. The statistical methods of Pearson correlation and the analysis of covariance were used to test the hypotheses at the 0.05 significance level. There was a statistically significant, positive relationship between students' knowledge of wetland concepts and attitude defensibility toward wetland issues after an intervention emphasizing field study. However, the differences in posttest scores between the control and experimental group on both knowledge and attitude defensibility may be attributed to a drop in the control group's posttest scores. The experimental group's score posttest scores remained similar to the pretest scores in both instruments. Furthermore, the study did not find a significant interaction on knowledge of wetland concepts or attitude defensibility toward wetland issues that could be attributed to gender. The analysis of the relationship between knowledge and attitude defensibility provided valuable insight. The results showed that to develop environmental attitudes, teaching strategies focused on specific attitudes should be included in students' coursework. This study also shed light on how students develop attitudes about the environment and make decisions using information supports.