Comparing Teaching Methods in an Environmental Education Field Trip Program

Michelle K. Pearce, MAEd,  The North Carolina Arboretum, and Tammy D. Lee, PhD, East Carolina University


This study investigates the impact of instructional methods based on a one-day informal science field experience comparing a teacher-centered methodology versus a student-centered (inquiry-based) methodology.  The 5E learning cycle was selected as the framework for implementing the inquiry-based learning for the treatment groups as it provides the structure of the constructivist learning cycle (Duran & Duran, 2004).  The research design followed a quasi-experimental design with a total of three control and three treatment groups representing two individual schools. Each school included at least one treatment and one control group. The study included 117 third grade students.  Both groups were given a pre and post assessment measuring the impact of the instructional method of inquiry presented in the 5E format. An independent-measures t-test was used to analyze the results of the means for the post-test assessments (treatment and control) and the means of the retention assessments. Pre-tests indicated variations of prior knowledge between the control and treatment groups. Post-tests indicated similar results of knowledge gains.  However, the retention tests for the treatment groups revealed students increased their knowledge from the time of their post-test.  The control groups’ retention results were similar to their post-test results indicating knowledge was maintained.


Informal education, science, field experience

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