North-Central Section - 47th Annual Meeting (2-3 May 2013)

Paper No. 4
Presentation Time: 8:00 AM-12:00 PM


BARONE, Steven, Geosciences Department, Western Michigan University, 1187 Rood Hall, Kalamazoo, MI 49008 and PETCOVIC, Heather, Department of Geosciences and The Mallinson Institute for Science Education, Western Michigan University, 1187 Rood Hall, Kalamazoo, MI 49008,

The purpose of this action research study is to develop and evaluate a sequence of four lessons for an introductory earth science course taken by future elementary teachers. Action research is a reflective process of data collection and analysis used by teachers to improve their classroom practice. This study’s goal was to produce a series of lessons that align with the course philosophy, are effective at improving students’ understanding of climate change, and meet the state requirements for elementary teacher preparation.

The action research cycle began by developing four lessons that follow the course philosophy of student-driven learning through guided-inquiry. The first lesson uses a jigsaw teaching approach in which students create a model of the carbon cycle. In the second lesson students design an experiment to test the effect of carbon dioxide on atmospheric temperature and use a computer animation to further investigate the greenhouse effect. In the third lesson, students use Google Earth to determine 50-year temperature averages for various cities across the globe. In the fourth lesson students examine Vostok ice core data to reconstruct a 300,000 year climate record and its relationship to Milankovitch cycles. Although these lessons are designed for and tested in a course for future elementary teachers, they could be adapted to other settings as well (e.g. high school, college non-majors earth science courses).

The action research cycle continued with lesson implementation, data collection, analysis/reflection, and revision of the lessons. Three data sets were used to evaluate the lessons: 1) student knowledge gains on an objective pre- and post-test, 2) students’ self-reported confidence with the lesson content, and 3) classroom observations to monitor lesson implementation. Data analysis in the spring 2012 and fall 2012 semesters revealed that students were able to identify natural mechanisms that cause climate to change, distinguish between weather and climate, and identify greenhouse gases as contributing to global warming. However, they struggled with interpreting graphs and identifying how natural processes affect the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. These results guide changes for future lesson implementation to complete the action research study.