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Supporting and Understanding Students’ Epistemological Discourse About Climate Change

The climate change community has begun to look carefully at how the public understands, or fails to understand, climate change and the scientific claims made based on data. This study focuses on how teachers provide scaffolding that supports students’ understanding of, not only how climate systems work or the causes and effects of climate change, but also how we know what we know. Stanford’s Global Climate Change: Professional Development for K–12 Teachers project provided teacher professional development on the science of global climate change, curricular materials, and pedagogical strategies. We conducted an in-depth study of the classrooms of the participating teachers. Our results show statistically significant gains from pre- to post-assessment in students’ content knowledge and a shift in their opinions about climate change. These gains are positively related to the percentage of students who are engaged and interacting, and negatively related to the percentage of students who are disengaged. Through classroom observations and video recordings, we identify how teachers and students talk about how we know about climate change, and we discuss how that talk can be enhanced.


[DOI: 10.5408/13-036.1]

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