Academic journal article Journal of Geoscience Education

Student Media Production to Meet Challenges in Climate Change Science Education

Academic journal article Journal of Geoscience Education

Student Media Production to Meet Challenges in Climate Change Science Education

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Despite the defining role that climate change will play in the lives of today's young people, their understanding of its causes, its implications, and the scale of action required to address it is inadequate (Leiserowitz et al., 2011). Like many other geoscience areas, educational challenges in climate change include its inherent complexity and dynamic nature, as well as the interdisciplinary perspective needed to understand its drivers and consequences. Perhaps even more importantly, the profound implications of ongoing climate change for human society and energy systems can create unique barriers to learning that demand new pedagogical approaches. These barriers include its politicization in the public discourse, the psychological and affective responses it elicits, and the deeply entrenched misconceptions about climate change that nonexperts frequently hold (Leiserowitz, 2006; Marx et al., 2007; CRED, 2009; Forest and Feder, 2011; Pidgeon and Fischhoff, 2011). Students learning about climate change are often faced with social dissonance when they attempt to reconcile a view of the future that is informed by climate change science with the views of their family and friends. When faced with this dissonance, many people seek and credit information that relieves it, even if doing so reverses gains they have made in climate literacy (Kahan et al., 2012). Together, these responses can impede the formation of robust mental models of the climate and energy systems that are needed to incorporate new information, make effective decisions, and find innovative solutions to address climate change (Engelmann and Huntoon, 2011; Jones et al, 2011). Social science research has made it clear that these barriers are not effectively addressed through the "information deficit model"; i.e., information delivery alone is not an effective means for overcoming misconceptions (Pidgeon and Fischhoff, 2011). Instead, effective approaches that engage active, affective, and social learning pathways are needed to address barriers that stem from these domains. Here, we describe a new approach to climate change education that incorporates media production by students as a means to evoke both analytic and affective processing. This approach can be applied at levels from middle school to graduate school, although we focus on curriculum developed for undergraduate and graduate students who were primarily science majors. Our initial results support the hypothesis that student media production projects provide an opportunity for social learning and affective processing of climate change science content, leading to increased engagement and improved learning outcomes.

In addition to the analytic processing that is evoked in conventional geoscience pedagogical approaches (e.g., reading, lecture presentations, laboratory reports, exams), video production provides a means by which to engage associative and affective processing (which is automatic, rapid, and influenced by emotion), through storytelling, metaphor, images, and emotion (Gräber, 1990). The affective system plays an important role in evaluating uncertainty and risk (such as potential climate change impacts or mitigation), and it is the primary motivator for action (Weber, 2006) and sustained commitment to difficult problems (Pidgeon and Fischhoff, 2011). While the affective system enables rapid responses, analytic reasoning requires us to learn algorithms for decision making and apply them through conscious awareness and control, a process that takes time (Marx et al., 2007). Importantly, these two processing systems work together: analytic reasoning is not effective unless guided by emotion and affect, and, if the responses of the two systems are in conflict, the affective system almost always prevails (Damasio, 1994). Thus, emotion is integral to our thinking, perceptions, and behavior (Pidgeon and Fischhoff, 2011). Challenging students to convey the essence of scientific concepts through media production requires them to engage both analytic and affective processing, opening an opportunity for deeper learning. …

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