Paper No. 6
Presentation Time: 9:45 AM


MCNEAL, Karen S., Marine, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27695 and TIPTON, Jamie, Geosciences, Mississippi State University, Mississippi State, MS 39762,

Climate change is a polarized topic in the United States that creates emotional and cognitive dissonance in learners. In formal education, educators teaching about climate change often focus on the cognitive domain without providing time for students to discuss, reflect, respond, and reinforce their knowledge with others. Learning environments that allow students to actively engage the affective domain provide learners the opportunity to clarify their own mental models, examine new information, and make evidence based arguments. However, since climate change is often controversial, especially in social-political conservative cultures such as that in the southern US, addressing the affective domain can often be avoided by educators due to the controversial nature of the topic. This research study examines a semester long environmental geology course which emphasized climate change using an Earth systems approach and employed teaching strategies such as class dialogues, journaling, peer-to-peer presentations, and student discussions with one another and with non-class members. Evidence of student engagement during various pedagogical approaches was measured using biosensors on a sub-set of student participants. Student pre-post climate change knowledge was also measured using a climate change concept inventory. Qualitative data including journal entries, transcripts from student dialogs, and end of course evaluations were thematically coded to determine patterns about student climate change perspectives. Results indicate that students are much more engaged during discourse and reflection periods than traditional lecture. Furthermore, the approach supports student learning gains in content understanding as well as their confidence with the topic. As a result of dialog, students gained perspectives from their peers and others outside the classroom about the topic, often highlighting how they learned something new from their peers. In an era where we are called to train future scientists to communicate effectively with the public while simultaneously de-polarizing the issue, we must recognize comprehensive teaching strategies that employ both the cognitive and affective domains.