TEACHING CLIMATE CONTROVERSIES: LESSONS LEARNED FROM THE CLEAN CLIMATE COMMUNICATIONS WORKSHOP
Workshop presentations featured public opinion research on Americans’ perceptions of climate change, tactics for identifying and resolving student misconceptions, and methods to address various “backfire effects” that can result from attempts to correct misinformation. A central theme of the presentations was that students do not process new information in a uniform way. New ideas are actively interpreted according to the existing knowledge and values of the listener. Thus it is critical to know your audience and seek a pathway that encourages cognitive change. Misconceptions can be largely cognitive such as a misunderstanding of the role of the ozone layer; or they can be intertwined with one’s worldview, such as the degree of anthropogenic forcing in the climate system. By identifying the underlying cause of a student’s misunderstanding, educators will be more effective at addressing it.
Some key pedagogic strategies emerged throughout the workshop. Simple tactics like acknowledging the value in a person’s question can help prevent a breakdown in communication. Providing concise, clear explanations is paramount, even if the underlying science is complex. Here, analogies can be powerful teaching tools and can translate complex ideas in a memorable way. Similarly, compelling visuals can portray volumes of information at a glance. Active learning techniques such as role playing, working with data, or using local representations of global problems allow students to construct knowledge for themselves.
Activities from the workshop are archived on the CLEAN website, including the presentations and materials created at the workshop. For more information, visit the workshop website at http://cleanet.org/clean/community/workshops/communication2012/index.html.