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Bringing climate scientist’s tools into classrooms to improve conceptual understandings

  • Drew BushEmail author
  • Renee Sieber
  • Gale Seiler
  • Mark Chandler
  • Gail L. Chmura
Article

Abstract

Efforts to address anthropogenic global climate change (AGCC) require public understanding of Earth and climate science. To meet this need, educational reforms and prominent scientists have called for instructional approaches that teach students how climate scientists examine AGCC. Yet, only a few educational studies have reported clear empirical results on what instructional approaches and climate education technologies best accomplish this goal. This manuscript presents detailed analysis and statistically significant results on the educational impact pre to post of students learning to use a National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) global climate model (GCM). This series of case studies demonstrates that differing instructional approaches and climate education technologies result in differing levels of understanding of AGCC and ability to engage with policies addressing it. Students who learned the scientific process of climate modeling scored significantly higher pre to post on exams (quantitatively) and gained more complete conceptual understandings of the issue (qualitatively). Yet, teaching students to conduct research with complex technology can be difficult. This study also found lecture-based learning better improved recall of facts about GCMs tested by multiple-choice questions. Our findings indicate what educational systems and related technologies might provide the public with the conceptual understandings necessary to engage in the political debate over AGCC.

Keywords

Public understanding Climate change Global climate models Education 

Notes

Acknowledgements

This research was supported by a McGill University Richard H. Tomlinson Fellowship in University Science Teaching.

Transparency statement

Results from the ANCOVA statistical test described in figure caption one have previously been reported in: Bush D, Sieber R, Seiler G & Chandler M (2017) Examining educational climate change technology: How group inquiry work with realistic scientific technology alters classroom learning. J Sci Educ and Technol 1–18. All other findings, text, research instruments, figures and tables are original and have not been reported on in any other publications. In particular, this work expands on our previous publication through an examination of previously unreported research instruments, findings and conclusions. It focuses on the literature, methods, results and implications of interest to the broader audience represented by the Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences that includes environment, Earth and climate scientists.

Software used to make figures

All figures were made using IBM SPSS Statistics (Version 20.0.0) and Microsoft PowerPoint for Mac 2011 (Version 14.3.4).

Supplementary material

13412_2018_525_MOESM1_ESM.docx (325 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 325 kb)

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Copyright information

© AESS 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of GeographyMcGill UniversityMontrealCanada
  2. 2.McGill School of EnvironmentMcGill UniversityMontrealCanada
  3. 3.School of EducationIowa State UniversityAmesUSA
  4. 4.Center for Climate Systems ResearchColumbia University, NASA-GISSNew YorkUSA

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