Academic journal article Science Educator

In-Service Teachers' Attitudes, Knowledge and Classroom Teaching of Global Climate Change

Academic journal article Science Educator

In-Service Teachers' Attitudes, Knowledge and Classroom Teaching of Global Climate Change

Article excerpt


This study explores in-service teachers' attitudes and knowledge about a pressing environmental issue, global climate change (GCC), and how these may relate to their classroom teaching. In this work, nineteen teachers from Native American communities attended a professional development workshop that focused on enhancing their scientific understanding and classroom teaching of GCC. Teachers' responses to surveys and interviews revealed that the majority of them considered GCC as mainly human-induced and shared similar concerns about potential consequences of GCC, but their specific ecological beliefs varied to different degrees. Throughout the workshop, teachers became more aware of the urgency of GCC and the importance of incorporating climate issues into their science teaching. However, teachers' attitudes and beliefs about GCC were not strong indicators of their level of knowledge, as misconceptions were sometimes found among teachers who were very concerned about climate issues. This work opens up further discussions on the relationship between individuals' attitudes and knowledge about environmental issues. More importantly, it provides important implications for future professional development programs on climate change education and proposes effective tools to evaluate teachers' perspectives about GCC.

Keywords: global climate change, attitudes, knowledge, professional development, climate change education


The primary goal of environmental education is to develop students' sense of the relationship between humans and the environment (Desjean-Perrotta, Moseley, & Cantu, 2008). K-12 science classes offer opportunities to enhance students' environmental literacy, which lays important foundations for fulfilling this goal (Littledyke, 2008). However, existing literature shows that an increase in scientific knowledge about environmental issues may not necessarily parallel with pro-environmental attitudes or behaviors (Guy, Kashi ma, Walker, & O'Neill, 2014; Hamilton, 2011; Kollmus & Agyeman, 2002). The present study aims to explore the relationship between in-service teachers' attitudes and knowledge in the context of global climate change (GCC). In particular, three research questions guided this work:

(1) What are teachers' attitudes and beliefs about GCC and how do they change through professional development?

(2) What is the nature of teachers' knowledge about GCC and how does it relate to their attitudes?

(3) How do teachers' attitudes and knowledge relate to their classroom teaching of GCC?

Literature Review

GCC involves "any substantial change in measures of climate (such as temperature or precipitation) lasting for an extended period (decades or longer)" which "may result from natural factors and processes or from human activities" (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2014, p.3). Issues related to GCC have been a pressing concern and one of the grand challenges for scientists and educators (Crowley, 2000). Despite increasing evidence for GCC (e.g., Good et al., 2011), a considerable percentage of the U.S. public still doubt its seriousness and urgency (Leiserowitz, Maibach, RoserRcnouf, & Smith, 2011). GCC thus constitutes an important topic for both science and environmental education, and developing a scientific understanding of GCC is a prominent component of the Next Generation Science Standards (Achieve, Inc., 2013).

Teachers play a critical role in educating future generations about GCC. Research has shown that teachers' beliefs about science have important impacts on students' perspectives toward corresponding topics, and teachers often align teaching strategies with their own knowledge and beliefs (Duschl, 1990; Waters-Adams, 2006). Thus, to provide efficient support for climate change education in the classrooms, it is critical to first examine the nature of teachers' attitudes and knowledge regarding GCC.

Attitudes and Beliefs about GCC

The term attitude is often used interchangeably with belief (e. …

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