Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Relationships between structure and function: System structure matters whether you are in a wetland or a college classroom
by Andrews, Sarah Elizabeth, Ph.D., University of New Hampshire, 2014, 277; 3581820
Abstract (Summary)

Part I of this dissertation describes two research projects I undertook to understand how structure influences function in freshwater wetlands. In the first study I tested the hypothesis that wetland structure (created versus natural) would influence function (methane cycling). Created wetlands had reduced rates of potential methane production and potential methane oxidation compared to natural wetlands; this was most likely explained by differences in edaphic factors that characterized each wetland, particularly soil moisture and soil organic matter. In the second study (Andrews et al. 2013), I tested the hypothesis that plant community structure (functional group composition, richness, presence/absence) would influence function (methane and iron cycling) in wetland mesocosms. Plant functional group richness was less important than the type of vegetation present: the presence of perennial vegetation (reeds or tussocks) led to increased rates of potential iron reduction compared to when only annual vegetation was present.

Part II of this dissertation describes research I undertook to understand how structure influences function in an undergraduate soil science course. In the first study I tested the hypothesis that course structure (traditional versus studio) would influence function (student performance) in the course. Students in the studio course outperformed students in the traditional course; there was also a decrease in the fail rate. In the second study I looked at students' perspectives on their learning and experiences (function) in the studio course and asked whether students' epistemological development influenced this function. Interviews with students revealed that active learning, the integrated nature of the course, community, and variety of learning and assessment methods helped student learning. Students' epistemological development (interpreted from the Measure of Epistemological Reflection) permeated much of what they spoke about during the interviews. There was also evidence that the studio structure may help promote epistemological growth via "sneaky learning" and an expanded role of peers.

The studies in Part I show that differences in structure affect function in freshwater wetland systems and the studies in Part II show that structure affects function in an undergraduate introductory soil science course. Thus, system structure matters whether you are in a wetland or a college classroom.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Frey, Serita D.
School: University of New Hampshire
School Location: United States -- New Hampshire
Source: DAI-A 76/02(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Science education, Environmental science
Keywords: Active Learning, Epistemology, Freshwater Wetlands, Methanogenesis, Plant Community, Studio Structure
Publication Number: 3581820
ISBN: 978-1-321-34287-1
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