Doctoral defence: David Cerulli “Investigating the teaching and learning of natural hazard disaster reduction”

On 11 March at 14:00 David Cerulli will defend his doctoral thesis Investigating the teaching and learning of natural hazard disaster reduction.

Professor Jack Holbrook, University of Tartu
Professor Ülo Mander, University of Tartu

Professor Kari Sormunen, University of Eastern Finland (Finland)

Despite of our efforts, development in science and technology has not stopped mass casualties as a consequence of natural disasters. This is worrying as the frequency and scale of natural hazards had increased due to global warming and increased urbanization. Awareness of potential natural hazards are an important first step to reduce associated risks. Raising such awareness is an essential educational task. The extent to which the necessary knowledge and readiness to behave adequately in crisis situations reach the students' consciousness depends on teaching and learning. To alleviate the problem, two approaches have been developed in this work: (1) a disaster awareness and preparedness index on the impact of education on awareness and preparedness, and (2) a conceptual model towards disaster teaching/learning contexts, and its potential to increase competencies in values, knowledge, skills and attitudes through experience. We found a significant positive correlation between the new index and the national level determined education factor, which is based on PISA science test results. This confirms the importance of education in aiding the mitigating the consequences of natural disasters in the country. A four-stage educational model, based on the meaningful use of science and technology, was developed. Its basic parts are well-known from the classical pedagogical theory: contextualization, de-contextualization, and re-contextualization. In this thesis, the existing model has been upgraded with the stage of responsible behavioral action. Based on the logic of the model, a survey conducted among Estonian, US and Japanese school students, on the basis of which the students' experiences of natural hazards and risk perception were assessed. The results of the test are similar across countries and show a relatively low awareness of students' competence with respect to natural hazards. The test and follow-up interviews conducted among teachers confirms that it is important to teach students to be aware of reasons for performing activities related to responsible behavior even in the conditions of an imaginary natural disaster situation. This shows that an additional stage of responsible behavioral action needs to be added to the 3-level model for science teaching/ learning.