The Teaching of Anthropogenic Climate Change and Earth Science Via Technology-Enabled Inquiry Education

By Bush, Drew; Sieber, Renee et al. | Journal of Geoscience Education, August 2016 | Go to article overview

The Teaching of Anthropogenic Climate Change and Earth Science Via Technology-Enabled Inquiry Education


Bush, Drew, Sieber, Renee, Seiler, Gale, Chandler, Mark, Journal of Geoscience Education


INTRODUCTION

Anthropogenic global climate change (AGCC) and Earth Science teaching in many classrooms looks similar to how science was taught in the 1960s. Teachers spend the majority of class time lecturing, and students passively receive information or take notes (Birk and Foster, 1993; Wyckoff, 2001; Gibson and Chase, 2002). The lecture approach persists, in large part, because strategies like inquiry-based teaching require considerable resources (e.g., time, planning, and teaching assistants) from faculty with already hectic schedules. Such pedagogy does not fit with cognitive research, which shows that individuals construct mental models of physical and conceptual aspects of the world (Kaplan and Kaplan, 1982; Kearney and Kaplan, 1997) ''based on experience'' that is ''maintained unless it is modified or contradicted'' (Kearney, 1994, 423). Students may have difficultly experiencing the issue of AGCC in lecture because it involves global average temperature, change happening on a huge scale, and abstract, intangible scientific concepts (Kearney, 1994). Students in North America also are exposed to a public discourse where understandings are based on cultural or political identity (Leiserowitz et al., 2009; Kahan, 2010; Kahan et al., 2011, 2012) and scientific information is viewed skeptically (McCright and Dunlap, 2011).

Inquiry courses adopt the tools of scientists to build experiences that generate understanding of AGCC. Inquiry is a central component of the 1996 National Science Education Standards (NRC, 1996) and the 2013 Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS Lead States, 2013). It is defined by teaching that asks students to pose questions, evaluate and formulate answers using evidence, examine alternate explanations, and communicate findings rather than learn ''a collection of facts'' that ''can be found in their textbook'' (Rakow, 1986, 14). In the decades surrounding the standards, student inquiry into AGCC has included semester-long policy summits where role-playing leads to negotiations over improvements to the Kyoto Protocol (Gautier and Rebich, 2005), work as meteorologists who observe local temperatures (Pruneau et al., 2003), and projects using participatory planning processes to learn the social implications of climate change (Godfrey, 2015). Challenges have included finding time throughout a course to record and report data (Butler and Macgregor, 2003), making observations consistent with scientific concepts (Oh, 2010, 2011), incorporating tangible learning about impacted places (Gold et al., 2015), and developing access to global data and evidence (Chambers et al., 2008; Ledley et al., 2011). Educational researchers have also devoted time to solving a mismatch between the needs of educators and the information, tools, or data made available by scientists (Slater et al., 2009; Ledley et al., 2011).

Findings from research over the past decade indicate technology-enabled inquiry strategies can engage students (Swarat et al., 2012), result in deeper understanding and higher achievement (Songer et al., 2002; Butler and MacGregor, 2003; Bodzin, 2014), and improve attitudes about science (Pea et al., 1994; Baker and White, 2003; Jafer, 2003; Harwood and McMahon, 2013). The caveat is that teachers must carefully design curricula, use and explain the related technologies, and provide strong guidance and feedback all while relating student learning to personal experience. In this paper, we examine the refereed educational literature on inquiry AGCC and Earth Science teaching to identify how further collaboration and study could help develop more effective tools and curricula. We first identify a gap that has heretofore existed between educational technologies available to educators and those used by climate scientists. We next review the strengths and weaknesses of a wide variety of AGCC and Earth Science technologies and curricula. We then conclude with a summary of what instructional designers must take into account when designing AGCC learning materials and identify collaborations that could speed the development of new technologies. …

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