EE researcher identity - a question | NAAEE
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EE researcher identity - a question

A question for the researchers in this space. I am writing a paper at the junction of science and environmental education, and the issue of research identity came up in discussions with my co-author. I can speak to why I consider myself an EE researcher and not a science ed researcher, but would love more input. Do you consider yourself an EE researcher or science ed researcher first? Why? Thanks, and apologies in advance for cross-posting this on multiple pages.

Hi Roberta. This is an interesting question, but yes, there is a difference. I've worn both hats; in my work as a graduate student studying high school students in school science coursework (even in an environmental science class), and again as a teacher educator in the university setting studying math and and science teacher preparation and professional development, I considered myself a science education researcher. As an informal educator at a botanical garden, and now as a researcher and evaluator at a Zoo, I consider myself a conservation (or environmental) education researcher. To me, the difference comes down to whether content, or content and behavior change, are is the goal of the programs under study. Curious to hear what others have to say on the topic.

Hi Roberta, I also consider myself an EE researcher and never a science ed researcher. To me the difference is in the goals, what we seek to learn by conducting research. I am personally interested in ways to effectively achieve EE and environmental literacy (attitudes, knowledge, behaviors) goals. Sometimes this intersects with science education, but not with science education research itself. I can't really even speak to that literature or say I'm versed in it as a scholar, but when I do overlap with it, I find that a lot of science education research is looking towards only one facet (what is learned/knowledge), and only very rarely how people feel about science. This is a really different lens than understanding how we can effectively facilitate people's engagement, interest, and stewardship of the natural world. That said, I do work with a lot of K-12 science teachers but our goals when we intersect align with EE goals and research questions.

Roberta - I'm definitely immersed in both. EE is more broad, but there is plenty of productive overlap with science education. Since I teach and do research in both, usually at the same time, I would find it difficult to rank them. Are you concerned about conflicting goals? That might make for an interesting topic...

Agreed this is a great question! I struggled with a similar question when I was doing my doctoral work. I keep coming back to the definitions of environmental literacy versus science literacy. I sometimes think about science education being a broader umbrella of disciplines that includes environmental education. And science engagement, science processes, and science concepts are all in service of understanding the environment and solving issues, etc. I too dabble in both realms of science ed and environmental ed. For the most part I lean toward science ed in part because it is broader and more encompassing (for me with my thinking about it...).

This is interesting because Bryan said EE is broader and Joy said science was! So even in this small sample there are very different mental models. I see them as more venn like than hierarchical or umbrellas of each other because I think sometimes they clearly overlap and sometimes they are clearly different, especially in the realm of research.

Great question Roberta! as a new doctoral student I'm navigating which identities I'd like to claim. I've found myself using science ed. researcher with colleagues outside of education research because it is easier for a general audience to interpret. But when in company with other education researchers I stress my interest in informal education research and environmental education research.

Fascinating. As with others, I am also between disciplines. As an educational psychologist with deep interest in the structures of learning outside of formal, my career in EE and in informal science research grounds me in both and neither. With Bryan, I find EE broader than science as it must include economics, society, history, and every other tool available to understand humans interacting with the natural (and sometimes unnatural) world being an important part of the second "E." But like Joy, I find science larger than EE with the first "E" bringing the science part of EE under the science umbrella. At the University I always complained to colleagues that EE didn't belong in the School of Environment and Natural Resources (where some faculty did not like having 'fluff' in the school) but we also most certainly did not belong in the College of Education (I taught several years cross departments with research in CoE and EE courses in the School) where the focus on formal ed so overwhelmed the few who worked outside those bounds, though that has changed in recent years, mostly post my retirement from academia. I used to call EE one of the "stepchildren" that belonged to both and neither.

Great questions and discussion! I am also straddling disciplines, but for the most part I identify with EE and see science education as a piece of that. My professional and academic background is in adult education with a focus on environmental/conservation education in out-of-school contexts and professional development for adult environmental learning program planners and facilitators. I like the broader focus on the social, economic, political, and ethical factors that are generally included in EE versus science education. As a doctoral student, it was tough to decide where I would "fit" when looking at programs. My first passion is adult learning, and there does not seem to be as much research overlap with informal/non-formal AE and EE as there is with EE, science education, and PK-16. But, I'm making it work!

Not necessarily conflict, but how the two communities can come together around a boundary object, which led to my coauthor and I wondering how people delineate themselves sin one community or the other. Of course, real life is messier than the theoretical, and we often boundary cross (I consider myself an EE researcher, but am doing a postdoc in science ed), but the responses to my question have been illuminating.

That sounds familiar, Joe. I have a Learning Sciences degree, and never felt "at home" in either the education school or the Ecol-Evolution group. At first it bothered me, but I realized that it was that transdisciplinary nature that I loved about EE. It is a space where expertise from all types of "schools" comes to meet.

Lauren, I would love to connect. I work with adults as well - educators in and out of school settings, and I feel like we are few and far between!

I come from a mixed trajectory-PhD degree and teaching six years in Bioanalytical Chemistry, then directing and teaching in an Environmental Science program for 14 years, and now moving to the Education Department six years ago as a teacher educator in environmental education. My focus and methods have changed with the positions. I now define myself mostly as an adult developmentalist interested primarily in how college students develop environmental literacy. That work and the literature I read is squarely in environmental education, which I believe is epistemologically broader than science education. When I worked in Environmental Science I did not ask questions about development, but if I did I would have viewed them through the lens of a science educator.

Hi Roberta - Yes, I agree completely! I have not encountered many folks with a specific adult focus in their work or research. I know they are out there but it's difficult to connect sometimes given the transdisciplinary nature of EE. I'd love to hear more about what you are working on and what your interests are. Feel free to reach out, lauren.vilen@colostate.edu.