Nav: Home

Climate change misconceptions common among teachers, study finds

June 07, 2017

Recent studies have shown that misconceptions about climate change and the scientific studies that have addressed climate change are pervasive among the U.S. public. Now, a new study by Benjamin Herman, assistant professor in the Department of Learning, Teaching and Curriculum in the University of Missouri College of Education, shows that many secondary school science teachers also possess several of these same misconceptions.

In the study, Herman surveyed 220 secondary science teachers in Florida and Puerto Rico to determine their knowledge about climate change science. The survey asked questions regarding things that do contribute to climate change, such as greenhouse gas emissions, and things that do not significantly contribute, such as the depletion of the ozone layer and the use of pesticides. The survey also asked whether controlled scientific experiments are required to validate climate change.

While the majority of the surveyed teachers accurately responded that fossil fuel use, automobiles and industry emissions were major causes of climate change, they also exhibited notable climate change misconceptions. For instance, nearly all of the Puerto Rico teachers and more than 70 percent of Florida teachers believed incorrectly that ozone layer depletion and pesticide use were at least minor, yet significant, causes of climate change. Additionally, Herman says that nearly 50 percent of Florida teachers and nearly 70 percent of Puerto Rico teachers think that climate change science must be studied through controlled experiments to be valid.

Herman says the teachers in his study exhibited climate change science misconceptions at a similar rate to average Americans. He says these results are understandable given that teachers are often overworked and not afforded professional development opportunities that would deepen their climate change science knowledge.

"Teachers want and need support to keep them abreast of scientific discoveries and developments and how scientists come to their well-established claims regarding climate change," Herman said. "Climate change science involves many different types of science methods stemming from disciplines, including physics, biology, atmospheric science and earth science. Science teachers also need professional development directed at assisting them in their efforts to accurately and effectively engage students on this important issue. Because of existing misconceptions and misinformation regarding climate change, science teachers have a crucial professional and ethical responsibility to accurately convey to their students how climate change is studied and why scientists believe the climate is changing."
-end-
The study, "Florida and Puerto Rico Secondary Science Teachers' Knowledge and Teaching of Climate Change Science," was published in the International Journal of Science and Mathematics Education. The study was coauthored by Allan Feldman and Vanessa Vernaza-Hernandez from the University of South Florida. The study was funded by a National Science Foundation Coastal Areas Climate Change Education Partnership Award grant.

University of Missouri-Columbia

Related Climate Change Articles:

Fairy-wrens change breeding habits to cope with climate change
Warmer temperatures linked to climate change are having a big impact on the breeding habits of one of Australia's most recognisable bird species, according to researchers at The Australian National University (ANU).
Believing in climate change doesn't mean you are preparing for climate change, study finds
Notre Dame researchers found that although coastal homeowners may perceive a worsening of climate change-related hazards, these attitudes are largely unrelated to a homeowner's expectations of actual home damage.
Older forests resist change -- climate change, that is
Older forests in eastern North America are less vulnerable to climate change than younger forests, particularly for carbon storage, timber production, and biodiversity, new research finds.
Could climate change cause infertility?
A number of plant and animal species could find it increasingly difficult to reproduce if climate change worsens and global temperatures become more extreme -- a stark warning highlighted by new scientific research.
Predicting climate change
Thomas Crowther, ETH Zurich identifies long-disappeared forests available for restoration across the world.
Historical climate important for soil responses to future climate change
Researchers at Lund University in Sweden, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Amsterdam, examined how 18 years of drought affect the billions of vital bacteria that are hidden in the soil beneath our feet.
Can forests save us from climate change?
Additional climate benefits through sustainable forest management will be modest and local rather than global.
From crystals to climate: 'Gold standard' timeline links flood basalts to climate change
Princeton geologists used tiny zircon crystals found in volcanic ash to rewrite the timeline for the eruptions of the Columbia River flood basalts, a series of massive lava flows that coincided with an ancient global warming period 16 million years ago.
Think pink for a better view of climate change
A new study says pink noise may be the key to separating out natural climate variability from climate change that is influenced by human activity.
Climate taxes on agriculture could lead to more food insecurity than climate change itself
New IIASA-led research has found that a single climate mitigation scheme applied to all sectors, such as a global carbon tax, could have a serious impact on agriculture and result in far more widespread hunger and food insecurity than the direct impacts of climate change.
More Climate Change News and Climate Change Current Events

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2019.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Risk
Why do we revere risk-takers, even when their actions terrify us? Why are some better at taking risks than others? This hour, TED speakers explore the alluring, dangerous, and calculated sides of risk. Guests include professional rock climber Alex Honnold, economist Mariana Mazzucato, psychology researcher Kashfia Rahman, structural engineer and bridge designer Ian Firth, and risk intelligence expert Dylan Evans.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#540 Specialize? Or Generalize?
Ever been called a "jack of all trades, master of none"? The world loves to elevate specialists, people who drill deep into a single topic. Those people are great. But there's a place for generalists too, argues David Epstein. Jacks of all trades are often more successful than specialists. And he's got science to back it up. We talk with Epstein about his latest book, "Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World".
Now Playing: Radiolab

Dolly Parton's America: Neon Moss
Today on Radiolab, we're bringing you the fourth episode of Jad's special series, Dolly Parton's America. In this episode, Jad goes back up the mountain to visit Dolly's actual Tennessee mountain home, where she tells stories about her first trips out of the holler. Back on the mountaintop, standing under the rain by the Little Pigeon River, the trip triggers memories of Jad's first visit to his father's childhood home, and opens the gateway to dizzying stories of music and migration. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.