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Spring 2010 - Eric Brewe – Feb. 1

Center for Science and Mathematics Education Research
Colloquia & Seminar Series


Eric Brewe
Dept. of Curriculum and Instruction and Physics Dept.
Florida International University

Establishing educational ecosystems,
evidence from physics education reform effort

In an effort to describe the successful on-going educational outreach and reform efforts in physics at Florida International University we apply the analogy generated by Aubusson (2002, 2006) of an ecosystem. In this paper we substantiate the theoretical perspective of educational reform as ecosystem by accreting existing research, and establishing coherences with the theory, we finish by extrapolating to further research endeavors and identifying impacts of adopting ecosystem theory. Through the application of this theoretical perspective we identify elements of the reform effort and propose a research driven model for sustainable educational reform.

Aubusson (2006, 2002) utilized analogical mapping to establish an analogy between an ecosystem and a school reform effort in science. Educational reform is a complex process that requires overall systemic change which accounts for local contexts in order to be sustainable (Finkelstein, 2005; Stoll and Fink, 2003). Capturing the complexity of school science reform by casting it in familiar terms through an analogy to a familiar system allows researchers to identify relevant characteristics by drawing on knowledge of the target system. In science education reform, this is particularly useful because the target system is within the domain of science.

Exploiting the analogy to reason about educational reform points out that reform depends on a complex web of interconnected subsystems. Each of these subsystems are critical to the overall health of the ecosystem. Other characteristics identified by the analogy between the two systems include the following characteristics of ecosystems in educational systems: complexity, homeostasis, succession over time, fitness, generation/regeneration, opportunism, reproductive maturity, fragility, variational evolution, purpose, and knowledge.

In order to document the broad educational reform, we have identified three interconnected sub-systems, (curricular reform, community, and advocacy) which have been instrumental to the flourishing educational ecosystem. By identifying these systems as the constituents, we are in effect establishing the boundaries of our educational ecosystem. These sub-systems, have been subject to on-going research efforts (Brewe et. al., 2008, 2009). In this paper we describe the three subsystems, the connections between the subsystems, identify their role in sustaining the educational ecosystem, and describe how the educational ecosystem model provides a sustainable approach to educational reform. We describe these three subsystems in the context of the overall educational ecosystem in the following section

Monday, February 1, 2010
3:00 pm

St. John Hill Auditorium, 165 Barrows Hall


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