Special Issue "Water Literacy and Education"

A special issue of Water (ISSN 2073-4441). This special issue belongs to the section "Water Resources Management, Policy and Governance".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 November 2020).

Special Issue Editor

Prof. Dr. Cory T. Forbes
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
University of Nebraska-Lincoln, NE, USA
Interests: water; climate; K-12; undergraduate; education

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Societies today face an array of global, water-related challenges. Socio-hydrological issues (SHIs) such as these provide a strong rationale for the importance of systemic water education efforts aimed at cultivating water literacy among learners—the global citizens of today and tomorrow—in formal, non-formal, and informal contexts spanning the continuum of Pre-K to gray. To effectively engage in the socio-hydrological systems of which they are a part, learners should develop a robust understanding of (1) core hydrological concepts and (2) their social, cultural, economic, and political dimensions. In this Special Issue of Water, we invite contributions documenting research on the design, implementation, and impact of innovative water education programs that address these goals. Such programs might include K-12 or postsecondary curricula or courses, outreach programs with youth or adults, preservice teacher education, and/or professional development with K-12 educators, informal educators, or postsecondary faculty, each of which may focus on education about some aspect(s) of natural and/or managed water systems. Collectively, this Special Issue will showcase the current state of research on teaching and learning about water and efforts to cultivate water literacy through a diverse multitude of strategies and approaches. It will also highlight important areas of need for future water education endeavors and associated education research and/or program evaluation.

Prof. Dr. Cory T. Forbes
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

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Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 2000 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • Water literacy
  • Water education
  • Socio-hydrologic
  • Education research
  • Teaching
  • Learning
  • Curriculum
  • Assessment
  • Program evaluation
  • Outreach

Published Papers (12 papers)

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Research

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Article
Assessing Water Literacy: Undergraduate Student Conceptions of Groundwater and Surface Water Flow
Water 2021, 13(5), 622; https://doi.org/10.3390/w13050622 - 27 Feb 2021
Viewed by 582
Abstract
Given the importance of fresh water, we investigated undergraduate students’ understanding of water flow and its consequences. We probed introductory geology students’ pre-instruction knowledge using a classroom management system at two large research-intensive universities. Open-ended clicker questions, where students click directly on diagrams [...] Read more.
Given the importance of fresh water, we investigated undergraduate students’ understanding of water flow and its consequences. We probed introductory geology students’ pre-instruction knowledge using a classroom management system at two large research-intensive universities. Open-ended clicker questions, where students click directly on diagrams using their smart device (e.g., cell phone, tablet) to respond, probed students’ predictions about: (1) groundwater movement and (2) velocity and erosion in a river channel. Approximately one-third of students correctly identified groundwater flow as having lateral and vertical components; however, the same number of students identified only vertical components to flow despite the diagram depicting enough topographic gradient for lateral flow. For rivers depicted as having a straight channel, students correctly identified zones of high velocity. However, for curved river channels, students incorrectly identified the inside of the bend as the location of greatest erosion and highest velocity. Systematic errors suggest that students have mental models of water flow that are not consistent with fluid dynamics. The use of students’ open-ended clicks to reveal common errors provided an efficient tool to identify conceptual challenges associated with the complex spatial and temporal processes that govern water movement in the Earth system. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Water Literacy and Education)
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Article
Using Critical Environmental Agency to Engage Teachers in Local Watersheds through Water Quality Citizen Science
Water 2021, 13(2), 205; https://doi.org/10.3390/w13020205 - 16 Jan 2021
Viewed by 431
Abstract
This qualitative study explores teachers’ critical environmental agency (CEA) through deepening content knowledge, engaging in identity development, developing a critical consciousness of place, and moving toward civic action. We explored the meanings secondary science teachers made of an on-going professional development (PD) situated [...] Read more.
This qualitative study explores teachers’ critical environmental agency (CEA) through deepening content knowledge, engaging in identity development, developing a critical consciousness of place, and moving toward civic action. We explored the meanings secondary science teachers made of an on-going professional development (PD) situated in the Okefenokee Swamp (unique ecosystem that drains to Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean) and focused on local watershed citizen science monitoring and the global implications of all water being connected. Data analyses focused on how the nineteen teachers’ experiences and meanings were leveraged to develop CEA and the constraints that restricted their CEA development. Our findings broaden the understanding of how teachers, who teach historically underrepresented youth in low socioeconomic rural areas, come to see themselves as people who care about the environment and become empowered to envision a more sustainable future for their students and communities. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Water Literacy and Education)
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Article
Learning through the Experience of Water in Elementary School Science
Water 2021, 13(1), 43; https://doi.org/10.3390/w13010043 - 28 Dec 2020
Viewed by 746
Abstract
To date, limited research has been done on the implementation of experiential learning among elementary school students. The current mixed-methods study examines the capacity of elementary science students to develop water literacy through the application of an experiential learning framework. From 2016–2017, two [...] Read more.
To date, limited research has been done on the implementation of experiential learning among elementary school students. The current mixed-methods study examines the capacity of elementary science students to develop water literacy through the application of an experiential learning framework. From 2016–2017, two sections of 6th-grade science students (n = 56) from a gifted and talented school in Queens, NY, were introduced to an experiential-based water curriculum designed to meet the needs of elementary science standards through the use of authentic learning environments, physical and conceptual modeling, and systems thinking. Multiple research instruments were used as formative and summative assessments to determine baseline understanding and quantify the consequences of student learning: pre- and post-tests and pre- and post-drawing assessments, science notebooks, field journals, reflections, and observations. After participation in the experiential water unit, most students increased their conceptual understanding of water cycle components and processes from surface to groundwater, physical properties of matter, and hydrogeological concepts of permeability and porosity. Systems thinking skills progressed over the unit from structural thinking to dynamic thinking. Implications of this study indicate that the experiential learning framework is an effective pedagogical tool for elementary science students to develop water literacy and science and engineering practices. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Water Literacy and Education)
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Article
Enhancing Water Literacy through an Innovative Television Series Focused on Wai Maoli: Hawai’i Fresh Water Initiative
Water 2020, 12(11), 3247; https://doi.org/10.3390/w12113247 - 19 Nov 2020
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 486
Abstract
This study examined the ability of four 30-min television (TV) episodes to affect viewers’ understanding of, and engagement in, fresh water recharge, conservation, and reuse. We used questionnaires to examine changes in viewers’ perceived understanding, interest, and motivation after watching episodes at in-person [...] Read more.
This study examined the ability of four 30-min television (TV) episodes to affect viewers’ understanding of, and engagement in, fresh water recharge, conservation, and reuse. We used questionnaires to examine changes in viewers’ perceived understanding, interest, and motivation after watching episodes at in-person screenings during September 2019 (average 27.5 attendees and 19.5 respondents per episode screening). In general, perception of skills and engagement increased after viewing the episode, and viewers reported a willingness to take action themselves as well as to pledge support for the use of public funds in water-related actions. However, viewers were less swayed on topics such as the “ickiness” of recycled water and on policies that allow black water recycling. At the final screening of the series, we also investigated preference for in-depth content versus a synoptic episode via structured focus groups. With a high degree of consensus, focus group participants felt that topics were better presented in episodes with more in-depth content. These results support the use of long-form, content-rich educational videos to teach water science and increase motivation. In combination with TV viewing metrics, our study thus supports the use of TV as an effective medium for reaching a broad demographic. However, our findings also imply that changing viewers’ perceptions on controversial water-use topics requires additional consideration to support the construction of new beliefs, water literacy, and citizen engagement. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Water Literacy and Education)
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Article
Cultivating Water Literacy in STEM Education: Undergraduates’ Socio-Scientific Reasoning about Socio-Hydrologic Issues
Water 2020, 12(10), 2857; https://doi.org/10.3390/w12102857 - 14 Oct 2020
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 829
Abstract
Water-literate individuals effectively reason about the hydrologic concepts that underlie socio-hydrological issues (SHI), but functional water literacy also requires concomitant reasoning about the societal, non-hydrological aspects of SHI. Therefore, this study explored the potential for the socio-scientific reasoning construct (SSR), which includes consideration [...] Read more.
Water-literate individuals effectively reason about the hydrologic concepts that underlie socio-hydrological issues (SHI), but functional water literacy also requires concomitant reasoning about the societal, non-hydrological aspects of SHI. Therefore, this study explored the potential for the socio-scientific reasoning construct (SSR), which includes consideration of the complexity of issues, the perspectives of stakeholders involved, the need for ongoing inquiry, skepticism about information sources, and the affordances of science toward the resolution of the issue, to aid undergraduates in acquiring such reasoning skills. In this fixed, embedded mixed methods study (N = 91), we found SHI to hold great potential as meaningful contexts for the development of water literacy, and that SSR is a viable and useful construct for better understanding undergraduates’ reasoning about the hydrological and non-hydrological aspects of SHI. The breadth of reasoning sources to which participants referred and the depth of the SSR they exhibited in justifying those sources varied within and between the dimensions of SSR. A number of participants’ SSR was highly limited. Implications for operationalizing, measuring, and describing undergraduate students’ SSR, as well as for supporting its development for use in research and the classroom, are discussed. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Water Literacy and Education)
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Article
Ready for Drought? A Community Resilience Role-Playing Game
Water 2020, 12(9), 2490; https://doi.org/10.3390/w12092490 - 06 Sep 2020
Viewed by 924
Abstract
Drought is an abstract and complex phenomenon that can be difficult for many people to comprehend. Proactive planning to improve response during drought events is necessary but complicated because it involves stakeholders and decision-makers with competing interests. A category of games, called serious [...] Read more.
Drought is an abstract and complex phenomenon that can be difficult for many people to comprehend. Proactive planning to improve response during drought events is necessary but complicated because it involves stakeholders and decision-makers with competing interests. A category of games, called serious games, have proven to be helpful when learning about abstract concepts, and for improving communication and conflict resolution with respect to water-related issues. In this study, we present a new in-person role-playing game that serves as a drought educational tool in both classroom and professional settings. The message of the game emphasizes the importance of communication and cooperation between various communities and sectors that can be affected by drought. Furthermore, it also encourages discussions and collaborations between stakeholders involved in drought planning and can serve as an icebreaker activity. The game has been played in a variety of settings including university classes, university extension workshops, and drought workshops. This study describes the game itself, its development, and the results of surveys from game participants that were used to evaluate the usability of the game as an educational and icebreaker activity. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Water Literacy and Education)
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Article
Students’ Scientific Evaluations of Water Resources
Water 2020, 12(7), 2048; https://doi.org/10.3390/w12072048 - 18 Jul 2020
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1183
Abstract
Socially-relevant and controversial topics, such as water issues, are subject to differences in the explanations that scientists and the public (herein, students) find plausible. Students need to be more evaluative of the validity of explanations (e.g., explanatory models) based on evidence when addressing [...] Read more.
Socially-relevant and controversial topics, such as water issues, are subject to differences in the explanations that scientists and the public (herein, students) find plausible. Students need to be more evaluative of the validity of explanations (e.g., explanatory models) based on evidence when addressing such topics. We compared two activities where students weighed connections between lines of evidence and explanations. In one activity, students were given four evidence statements and two models (one scientific and one non-scientific alternative); in the other, students chose four out of eight evidence statements and three models (two scientific and one non-scientific). Repeated measures analysis of variance (ANOVA) showed that both activities engaged students’ evaluations and differentially shifted students’ plausibility judgments and knowledge. A structural equation model suggested that students’ evaluation may influence post-instructional plausibility and knowledge; when students chose their lines of evidence and explanatory models, their evaluations were deeper, with stronger shifts toward a scientific stance and greater levels of post-instructional knowledge. The activities may help to develop students’ critical evaluation skills, a scientific practice that is key to understanding both scientific content and science as a process. Although effect sizes were modest, the results provided critical information for the final development and testing stage of these water resource instructional activities. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Water Literacy and Education)
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Article
Water from the Perspective of Education for Sustainable Development: An Exploratory Study in the Spanish Secondary Education Curriculum
Water 2020, 12(7), 1877; https://doi.org/10.3390/w12071877 - 30 Jun 2020
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 697
Abstract
Current educational curricula in Spain contain few references to sustainability topics, so there is insufficient coverage of these issues in the classroom. Notably, there is a lack of reference to the concept of water from a sustainable perspective. The key aim of this [...] Read more.
Current educational curricula in Spain contain few references to sustainability topics, so there is insufficient coverage of these issues in the classroom. Notably, there is a lack of reference to the concept of water from a sustainable perspective. The key aim of this study was to analyze the presence of the concept of water in the curriculum that regulates secondary education in Spain using a previously established system of categories. An exploratory and descriptive research methodology was followed, in which we carried out a qualitative lexicographical analysis of the concept of water in the Spanish secondary education curriculum. An analysis of the cognitive demand required of students to learn about water, according to Bloom’s taxonomy, was also conducted. The results show that the concept of water appears moderately in the curriculum focusing on some aspects of Sustainable Development. Likewise, the analysis of the cognitive demand required of students for learning about water reveals that lower levels of knowledge and comprehension predominate based on Bloom’s taxonomy. We consider that teaching water from a sustainable perspective can generate in students awareness and values about nature and the environment, knowledge that contributes to sensible use of water and involvement for sustainable development. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Water Literacy and Education)
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Article
Sociohydrologic Systems Thinking: An Analysis of Undergraduate Students’ Operationalization and Modeling of Coupled Human-Water Systems
Water 2020, 12(4), 1040; https://doi.org/10.3390/w12041040 - 07 Apr 2020
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 1025
Abstract
One of the keys to science and environmental literacy is systems thinking. Learning how to think about the interactions between systems, the far-reaching effects of a system, and the dynamic nature of systems are all critical outcomes of science learning. However, students need [...] Read more.
One of the keys to science and environmental literacy is systems thinking. Learning how to think about the interactions between systems, the far-reaching effects of a system, and the dynamic nature of systems are all critical outcomes of science learning. However, students need support to develop systems thinking skills in undergraduate geoscience classrooms. While systems thinking-focused instruction has the potential to benefit student learning, gaps exist in our understanding of students’ use of systems thinking to operationalize and model SHS, as well as their metacognitive evaluation of systems thinking. To address this need, we have designed, implemented, refined, and studied an introductory-level, interdisciplinary course focused on coupled human-water, or sociohydrologic, systems. Data for this study comes from three consecutive iterations of the course and involves student models and explanations for a socio-hydrologic issue (n = 163). To analyze this data, we counted themed features of the drawn models and applied an operationalization rubric to the written responses. Analyses of the written explanations reveal statistically-significant differences between underlying categories of systems thinking (F(5, 768) = 401.6, p < 0.05). Students were best able to operationalize their systems thinking about problem identification (M = 2.22, SD = 0.73) as compared to unintended consequences (M = 1.43, SD = 1.11). Student-generated systems thinking models revealed statistically significant differences between system components, patterns, and mechanisms, F(2, 132) = 3.06, p < 0.05. Students focused most strongly on system components (M = 13.54, SD = 7.15) as compared to related processes or mechanisms. Qualitative data demonstrated three types of model limitation including scope/scale, temporal, and specific components/mechanisms/patterns excluded. These findings have implications for supporting systems thinking in undergraduate geoscience classrooms, as well as insight into links between these two skills. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Water Literacy and Education)
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Article
Flipped Learning Approach as Educational Innovation in Water Literacy
Water 2020, 12(2), 574; https://doi.org/10.3390/w12020574 - 20 Feb 2020
Cited by 19 | Viewed by 2179
Abstract
Water literacy has become a fundamental aspect in today’s society, as its conservation, preservation and management is key to ensuring human survival. The purpose of this paper was to analyze the effectiveness of flipped learning methodology on a traditional training practice in water [...] Read more.
Water literacy has become a fundamental aspect in today’s society, as its conservation, preservation and management is key to ensuring human survival. The purpose of this paper was to analyze the effectiveness of flipped learning methodology on a traditional training practice in water literacy at the first level of secondary education. The flipped learning method consisted in providing the contents to the students before the class sessions, encouraging an active learning. A descriptive study was adopted with two experimental groups, two control groups and only post-test. An ad hoc questionnaire was used as an instrument to measure the parameters: Socio-educational, Motivation, Interactions, Autonomy, Collaboration; Deepening of contents; Problem solving, Class time and Ratings. The final sample was composed of 120 students, divided into four groups of 30 students each. The application of the treatment in the experimental groups lasted 10 sessions of 55 min. The results indicate that the use of time in class, the autonomy and the deepening of the contents were the aspects that improved most with the flipped learning approach. However, no significant differences in ratings were found. Finally, the main findings and their implications for water literacy are discussed. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Water Literacy and Education)
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Article
Water and Climate Change, Two Key Objectives in the Agenda 2030: Assessment of Climate Literacy Levels and Social Representations in Academics from Three Climate Contexts
Water 2020, 12(1), 92; https://doi.org/10.3390/w12010092 - 26 Dec 2019
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1389
Abstract
The relationship between climate change and water is an obvious and key issue within the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. This study aims to investigate the social representation created around this relationship in three different territorial contexts in order to evaluate the influence [...] Read more.
The relationship between climate change and water is an obvious and key issue within the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. This study aims to investigate the social representation created around this relationship in three different territorial contexts in order to evaluate the influence of the territory on the perception of the risk of climate change and its relationship with water. By means of a questionnaire completed by 1709 university students, the climatic literacy of the individual was evaluated in order to relate it to other dimensions on the relationship between climate change and water (information, training previous on climate change and pro-environmental attitudes) in their different dimensions in three different territorial contexts. Three hypotheses have been tested: (1) The denial of the CC is significantly associated with a representation that belittles the consequences of global warming and other extreme phenomena. (2) Territorial contexts with high average rainfall levels and low average annual temperatures tend to minimize the social representation of water risks associated with the CC. (3) There is significant interaction between the socio-cultural context and social representations on the causes, consequences and solutions to the problems of CC and water. The first two hypotheses have been rejected, while the third has been accepted. The research results show high climate literacy in the samples of selected university students. It is noted that students recognize a close relationship between the problem of water and the climate crisis. Likewise, they identify different types of causes, consequences, physical processes and solutions. Different climatological contexts do not show significant differences in the social representations that students show about climate change, while socio-educational variables such as available scientific information, or ideology orientation do show significant differences. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Water Literacy and Education)
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Review

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Review
What We Know about Water: A Water Literacy Review
Water 2020, 12(10), 2803; https://doi.org/10.3390/w12102803 - 09 Oct 2020
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 1570
Abstract
Water literacy, or the culmination of water-related knowledge, attitudes and behaviors, is a relatively new field of study with growing importance for sustainable water management and social water equity. However, its definition and use across existing literature are varied and often inconsistent. This [...] Read more.
Water literacy, or the culmination of water-related knowledge, attitudes and behaviors, is a relatively new field of study with growing importance for sustainable water management and social water equity. However, its definition and use across existing literature are varied and often inconsistent. This paper seeks to synthesize and streamline the conception of water literacy. We conducted a systematic review of literature that defines or describes in detail either “water literacy” or “watershed literacy”. From this, we suggest a new holistic framework for water literacy to guide a more inclusive, relevant use of the concept. We utilized the framework to examine existing surveys and studies of water knowledge, attitudes and behaviors in both student and adult populations, and summarized water literacy levels and knowledge gaps that exist around the world. To address knowledge gaps, we suggest using a suite of approaches drawn from the published literature, including enhanced visuals, place-based learning, interdisciplinary curricula, and reflective and iterative development of future water literacy initiatives. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Water Literacy and Education)
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