Journal of Science Teacher Education

, Volume 26, Issue 6, pp 549–571 | Cite as

Nordic–Baltic Student Teachers’ Identification of and Interest in Plant and Animal Species: The Importance of Species Identification and Biodiversity for Sustainable Development

  • Irmeli Palmberg
  • Ida Berg
  • Eila Jeronen
  • Sirpa Kärkkäinen
  • Pia Norrgård-Sillanpää
  • Christel Persson
  • Rytis Vilkonis
  • Eija Yli-Panula


Knowledge of species, interest in nature, and nature experiences are the factors that best promote interest in and understanding of environmental issues, biodiversity and sustainable life. The aim of this study is to investigate how well student teachers identify common local species, their interest in and ideas about species identification, and their perceptions of the importance of species identification and biodiversity for sustainable development. Totally 456 student teachers for primary schools were tested using an identification test and a questionnaire consisting of fixed and open questions. A combination of quantitative and qualitative methods was used to get a more holistic view of students’ level of knowledge and their preferred learning methods. The student teachers’ ability to identify very common species was low, and only 3 % were able to identify most of the tested species. Experiential learning outdoors was suggested by the majority of students as the most efficient learning method, followed by experiential learning indoors, project work and experimental learning. They looked upon the identification of plants and animals as ‘important’ or ‘very important’ for citizens today and for sustainable development. Likewise, they looked upon biodiversity as ‘important’ or ‘very important’ for sustainable development. Our conclusion is that teaching and learning methods for identification and knowledge of species and for education of biodiversity and sustainable development should always include experiential and project-based methods in authentic environments.


Teacher education Learning methods Learning materials Species identification Biodiversity education Education for sustainable development 



Our thanks go to our colleagues in Finland, Norway and Sweden for their help with collecting the material. The following foundations have supported the research: Högskolestiftelsen i Österbotten, Svenska Kulturfonden and Aktiastiftelsen.

Supplementary material

10972_2015_9438_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (366 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 366 kb)


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Copyright information

© The Association for Science Teacher Education, USA 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Irmeli Palmberg
    • 1
  • Ida Berg
    • 1
  • Eila Jeronen
    • 2
  • Sirpa Kärkkäinen
    • 3
  • Pia Norrgård-Sillanpää
    • 1
  • Christel Persson
    • 4
  • Rytis Vilkonis
    • 5
  • Eija Yli-Panula
    • 6
  1. 1.Department of EducationÅbo Akademi UniversityVaasaFinland
  2. 2.Department of Educational SciencesUniversity of OuluOuluFinland
  3. 3.School of Applied Educational Science and Teacher EducationUniversity of Eastern FinlandJoensuuFinland
  4. 4.School of Education and EnvironmentKristianstad UniversityKristianstadSweden
  5. 5.Department of Educational SystemsSiauliai UniversitySiauliaiLithuania
  6. 6.Department of Teacher EducationUniversity of TurkuTurkuFinland

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