Making the State of the Art the Classroom Benchmark: A Climate Change Curriculum Based on Synthesis Science

Monday, 15 December 2014
Kimberly A Nicholas, Lund University, Lund, Sweden
A hallmark of science in the Anthropocene is the increasing use of synthesis efforts to distill ever-growing data into the best available scientific knowledge. Thousands of scientists contribute substantial amounts of time towards these efforts, with the aim of producing authoritative work as a basis for informing both further research priorities and policy decisions. Organizations such as the IPCC are increasing their efforts to disseminate their scientific findings to broader audiences, for example, using text and video summaries targeted for policymakers. However, the results of such synthesis efforts have rarely been disseminated further back in the pipeline, in the classrooms where scientific literacy is shaped.

Here, I will describe an emerging initiative to develop a program to translate state-of-the-art scientific synthesis findings into a modular, flexible climate change curriculum. This initiative is envisioned to compliment rather than compete with existing curriculum development efforts. Examples from innovation labs in healthcare delivery and other fields will be used to demonstrate a model for how a small, interdisciplinary team of early-career experts can use their content and pedagogical knowledge to transform synthesis results into ready-to-use teaching materials. The benefits of such a curriculum include improved student learning through constructive alignment of thoughtfully designed teaching and learning activities and assessment activities to promote intended learning outcomes, as well as the real-world illustration of the method of scientific inquiry applied to socially relevant problems. The curriculum can also improve teaching experiences through increased efficiency in course preparation, and in sharing best practices with participating colleagues. Initial scoping will examine the needs of university teachers of climate change courses as the constituents of this curriculum, and possible support models to mainstream such efforts. Ultimately, using scientific syntheses as the basis for university curricula would help close the gap between research and classroom learning, promote increased scientific understanding, and help ensure that the resources devoted to scientific synthesis efforts are translated to broader benefits for society.