4DEE—What's Next? Designing Instruction and Assessing Student Learning

The Ecological Society of America (ESA) has recently adopted the 4‐Dimensional Ecology Education (4DEE) framework. The 4DEE framework takes a fresh and innovative approach toward the teaching of ecology. Developed over the past three years by a task force of ESA members that solicited input from a variety of groups, ESA's 4DEE framework includes four dimensions that educators should integrate when teaching ecology: Core Ecological Concepts (core ideas central to the discipline), Ecology Practices (ways scientists use their knowledge), Human–Environment Interactions (ways humans and nature impact each other), and Cross‐cutting Themes (concepts like scale and evolution that connect ideas and phenomena across disciplines; more information about the framework available online ).1

This new multi‐dimensional approach places distinctive emphasis on human–environment interactions, natural history, fieldwork, and ways of doing science that include working with data. The prominence of cross‐cutting themes like spatial/temporal scale and disturbance highlights the importance for students to learn and integrate big ideas in ecology. In addition, increasing emphasis on human dependency on the environment and ecosystem management will highlight the relevance of ecological knowledge to human welfare. The framework also enhances our ability to communicate ecology broadly and to develop educational policy and practices that address current global environmental problems, especially to the diverse audiences impacted.

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