Evaluating a Multi-Component Assessment Framework for Biodiversity Education


Hagenbuch, Brian E.1, Nora Bynum2, Eleanor Sterling2, Anne H. Bower3, John A. Cigliano4, Barbara J. Abraham5, Christine Engels2, John F. Mull6, John D. Pierce4, Michelle L. Zjhra7, Jennifer M. Rhode8, Stuart R. Ketcham9, and Margaret-Ann Mayer10

1- Holyoke Community College , Holyoke, MA 01040
Current address: Pine Lake Institute, Hartwick College, Oneonta, New York 13820 (
2 - Center for Biodiversity and Conservation , American Museum of Natural History, New York, NY 10024
3 - School of Science and Health, Philadelphia University, Philadelphia, PA 19144
4 - Department of Biological Sciences, Cedar Crest College, Allentown, PA 18104
5 - Department of Biological Sciences, Hampton University, Hampton, VA 23668
6 - Department of Zoology,Weber State University, Ogden, Utah 84408
7 - Department of Biology, Georgia Southern University, Statesboro, GA 30460
8 - Biology Department, University of North Carolina at Asheville, Asheville, NC, 28804
9 - University of the Virgin Islands, Kingshill, VI 00850
10 - Diné College, Tsaile, AZ 86556


The Network of Conservation Educators and Practitioners (NCEP) is a global initiative that seeks to create opportunities for the broad exchange of educational and training information and strategies among conservation educators and practitioners.  The lack of access to such resources is a significant obstacle to building capacity in biodiversity conservation.  To expand teaching resources and availability, NCEP has created over sixty web-based curricular modules on biodiversity topics that emphasize active learning pedagogies and the application of critical thinking to conservation problems. To complement the modules, we developed a multi-component assessment framework that evaluates 1) content knowledge before and after using the modules, 2) student confidence in their knowledge of biodiversity, 3) interest in biodiversity topics, 4) development of process skills that are important for conservation, and 5) changes in worldview and environmental orientation. Using this framework, three NCEP modules were tested in five diverse undergraduate courses and institutions with various class sizes. We predicted significant learning gains in content knowledge and changes in ecological attitudes and worldviews.  We found significant learning gains in content knowledge as well as increases in student confidence in content knowledge and greater interest in the field of biodiversity conservation. Module use did not change the overall environmental worldview of students in the study population. We also detected statistically significant declines in overall student confidence in process skills important to conservation. Analyses revealed no significant differences in any study variables based upon demographics such as school, gender, ethnicity, class standing, reason for enrollment or academic major.  Results demonstrate the value of the NCEP modules in enhancing biodiversity education, and the value of assessing student ability and perceptions of ability as measures of the effectiveness of educational programs.


Biodiversity, conservation biology, assessment


This collective effort is being overseen by the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation at the American Museum of Natural History. We gratefully acknowledge the students who participated in this study and continue to participate in the ongoing testing of the NCEP modules. Funding for this project has been provided by: National Science Foundation Course Curriculum and Laboratory Improvement Program DUE 0127506, DUE 0442490, New York Community Trust, Higher Education for Development (HED, USAID), John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Peter A. and Marion W. Schwartz Family Foundation, Overbrook Foundation, United States Fish and Wildlife Service 98210-1-G017, United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration NA04OAR4700191, United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Christensen Fund, Munson Foundation, Cedar Crest College Faculty Development Fund, Strachan and Vivian Donnelley, the Treisman Foundation, S. Malcolm and Elizabeth Gillis, Peggy Condron, and Dr. Kathryn Hearst. Editorial assistance was provided by Brian Weeks.


Brian E. Hagenbuch, Nora Bynum, Eleanor Sterling, Anne H. Bower, John A. Cigliano, Barbara J. Abraham, Christine Engels, John F. Mull, John D. Pierce, Michelle L. Zjhra, Jennifer M. Rhode, Stuart R. Ketcham, and Margaret-Ann Mayer. February 23 2009, posting date. Evaluating a Multi-Component Assessment Framework for Biodiversity Education. Teaching Issues and Experiments in Ecology, Vol. 6: Research #3 [online].