Date of Award

Fall 1976

Document Type

Dissertation - Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Tagatz, Glen E.

Second Advisor

Leslie, Lauren

Third Advisor

Topetzes, Nich J.


In recent years, the quality of our environment and its ability to continue to provide food and energy for a growing population have become topics of nearly worldwide concern. In the United States, this concern has generated a number of educational efforts in ecology extending even to the elementary school. However, these curricula appear to have been formulated with little knowledge of how the concept of ecology develops in children. This study sought to answer two questions: 1) What are the effects of the following variables on the development of the child's concept of ecology: a) developmental changes across the intuitive, concrete, and formal operations stages of cognitive development as outlined by Piaget; b) sex of the child; c) place of residence (urban vs. rural)? 2) What are the major parameters of the child's concept of ecology? Based on a pilot study, a semi-structured interview was constructed around seven parameters: Ecology, Biosphere, Pollution, Population, Niche, Species Interaction, and Adaption. A :five-point Likert-type rating scale was constructed to measure each of the seven parameters. Two judges each rated tape-recorded interviews of 132 children on each of the seven scales. In order to answer question one, a separate 2 x 2 x 3 analysis of variance was performed on the mean ratings for each subject on each scale. The results showed· cognitive stage as a significant main effect in the development of the concept of ecology. On all seven scales the- subjects' responses became less egocentric and concrete and more general and abstract as they-moved from intuitive to formal stages...



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