Research Summary

Children’s recall and motivation for an environmental education video with supporting pedagogical materials

Analyzing the effects of environmental education materials on elementary students

Environmental Education Research

Environmental education programs often use learning materials such as videos, prints, or websites to promote environmental knowledge, awareness, pro-environmental behaviors, and to improve recall among students. These materials are generally called environmental education materials (EEMs), and organizations have created protocols for classroom application for EEMs. NAAEE created the Environmental Education Materials: Guidelines for Excellence to help practitioners use high quality EEMs. Recall tests a student’s ability to state information that they learned from education material. Previous research suggests that students classified as high achievers show better levels of recall than low achieving students. In addition, previous research indicates that educational frameworks should be supported with printed material such as knowledge charts. This study analyzed the efficacy of video and printed EEMs at an elementary school. Specifically, the researchers measured how materials affected elementary students’ recall levels across achievement levels and their motivation behind learning.

The research occurred at a private elementary school in Quito, Ecuador, where waste management is a prominent environmental issue. Students who participated in the study were from the 5th grade, aged 8-9 years old. There were 72 participants who completed the study, split evenly between boys and girls. The researchers used participants’ overall academic scores from the previous school year to classify students as high, average, or low achievers. The researchers distributed a prior knowledge (PrK) test to assess participants’ baseline knowledge of waste management in Quito. Next, the researchers studied differences among participants’ ability to recall information by designing and implementing the Education Video Package (EVP). Following teachers’ recommendations, the EVP included a video called The Recyclables, divided into three episodes about 5 minutes each. The episodes discussed solid waste management in Quito. The researchers provided participant students a knowledge chart, which showed them an image (i.e., a trash can) and encouraged them to write what they already know, what they want to learn, and what they learned about waste disposal. They also provided a video worksheet for participant students to complete before each episode. The guiding questions encouraged participant students to focus on specific topics of the video.

Following students’ viewing of the EVP, the researchers measured recall by conducting three versions of a memory test in the following order: free recall (FR), cued recall (CR), and recognition. Most participants did all three tests: 63 students (88%) completed FR, 70 (97%) completed CR, and all 72 (100%) completed recognition. The recall measurement lasted about 10 minutes per participant. FR included one open-ended question that asked student participants to recite everything they remember. Both CR and recognition contained the same 12 questions from the PrK assessment; however, the recognition test provided multiple choice answers while the CR test included free-response questions. The researchers also tested motivation levels by implementing the Instructional Materials Motivation Survey (IMMS). This questionnaire includes 36 questions that measure participants’ motivation levels regarding attention, relevance, confidence, and satisfaction. The researchers also conducted in-depth interviews with four participants (two high achievers, two low achievers) as an additional measure for recall and motivation.

The researchers acted as teachers, following the normal class schedule and class activities. They did not inform the students of the research to ensure student participants did not feel extra pressure to memorize information. The research phase lasted a month, and included the PrK assessment, the three episodes of the EVP, and the interviews. After five months, the evaluators assessed the participants’ long-term retention by giving them the recognition test again; a total of 69 students (96%) completed the retention test. Once all the data was collected, the authors used statistics to analyze the results.

The researchers concluded that designing an EEM using various models and standards can lead to improved knowledge recall and motivation among participants. Overall, the study found that viewing the EVP improved student participants’ knowledge levels, and that recall did not differ significantly based on achievement level. The results indicated that motivation was relatively high across participating students.

High-achieving participants scored significantly higher on the prior knowledge assessment than low-achieving participants. During the CR test, high achievers recalled significantly more information than average achievers. The authors noted that participants from all three groups recalled little information during the free recall test. There was no significant difference across groups in the recognition test. In addition, the results failed to show a significant difference in the number of items recalled from the EVP among high, average, or low achievers.

Results from the IMMS showed that participants were significantly more motivated by the learning material from EVP. The researches hypothesized two reasons for this finding: 1) the material in the video was not technical and easily understood by all students; and 2) the video and worksheet likely allowed student participants to improve their memory abilities, which often leads to higher knowledge recall scores according to previous research.

The in-depth interviews found that student participants emphasized the importance of waste management, specifically recycling. The participating students also discussed the types of educational instructions they preferred from the study, citing both videos and worksheets as being helpful.

This study is limited by its location and scope. While the results are representative of 5th grade students in middle-to-high socioeconomic private schools in Quito, Ecuador, results may vary in other schools or contexts, or differing demographic groups.

The authors recommend practitioners use videos and supplementary worksheets in EE programs to help students to reflect upon what they have learned. By using supplementary materials, practitioners may improve knowledge recall among students and therefore influence students to adopt pro-environmental behaviors and attitudes.

The Bottom Line

This study measured whether Environmental Education Materials (EEMs) impacted elementary students’ recall levels across varying levels of achievement and their motivation behind learning. The researchers implemented an Education Video Package (EVP) containing videos (three, 5-minute episodes), complementary worksheets, and a knowledge chart to 72 5th grade students at a private school in Quito, Ecuador. After distributing prior knowledge assessments, surveys to measure recall, and conducting interviews, the researchers concluded that knowledge recall improved and did not significantly differ by achievement level. The results demonstrated that participating students were significantly more motivated by the EVP’s learning material. The authors encourage practitioners to implement various strategies when creating materials for EE programs and to design EEMs that will engage and motivate students, such as short videos with supplementary materials.