The Impact of Project-Based Climate Change Learning Experiences on Students’ Broad Climate Literacy

Wednesday, 17 December 2014: 11:20 AM
Jan DeWaters, Susan E. Powers and Suresh Dhaniyala, Clarkson University, Potsdam, NY, United States
Evidence-based pedagogical approaches such as project- and inquiry-based techniques have been shown to promote effective learning in science and engineering. The impact of project-based learning experiences on middle school (MS), high school (HS), and undergraduate (UG) students’ climate literacy was investigated as part of a NASA Innovations in Climate Education (NICE) project. Project-based modules were developed and taught by MS and HS teachers who participated in climate change education workshops. UG students enrolled in a climate science course completed independent research projects that provided the basis for several of the HS/MS modules. All modules required students to acquire and analyze historical temperature data and future climate predictions, and apply their analysis to the solution of a societal or environmental problem related to our changing climate.

Three versions of a quantitative survey were developed and used in a pre-test/post-test research design to help evaluate the project’s impact on MS, HS, and UG students’ climate literacy, which includes broad climate knowledge as well as affective and behavioral aspects. Content objectives were guided primarily by the 2009 document, Climate Literacy: The Essential Principles of Climate Sciences. All three groups of students made modest but statistically significant cognitive (p<<0.001) and affective (p<0.01) gains; UG students also showed an increase in behavior scores (p=0.001). Results of an ANCOVA showed significant differences in students’ cognitive (p<0.001), behavioral (p=0.005) and self-efficacy (p=0.012) outcomes among the 9 participating MS and HS classrooms, where both teacher and module content varied.

The presentation will include a description of some key aspects of the project-based curricula developed and used in this research, the development and content of the climate literacy survey, and the interpretation of specific pre/post changes in participating students relative to the content of and approach used in the project-based modules.