Opinions About Climate Change Among Non-science Majors and Influence of Passive vs. Active Learning Strategies Geoff Horst Department of Fisheries and Wildife 2009 FAST Symposium Climate Change is an important but controversial issue PEW Survey Finds Less than ½ of Adults Accept Concept of Human-Induced Climate Change 100% PEW Survey of Adults 80% No/Don't know 60% Yes 40% 20% 0% 77% 47% Is there global warming? and if so, because of humans? 1) From what you have read and heard, is there solid evidence that the average temperature of the earth has been getting warmer over the past few decades? (Yes/No/I Don’t Know) – Directly from PEW survey 2) If yes, then: a) Mostly due to human activities such as burning fossil fuels b) Mostly because of natural patterns in the earth’s environment c) Don’t know Climate Change Refresher Objectives For This Research Teaching Goal: In order to understand how to teach climate change more effectively, I need to know what opinions students have about climate change coming into the course and what factors may be influencing their opinions. Objectives: a) determine what influences student’s incoming opinions about climate change b) evaluate the effectiveness of passive vs. active learning strategies in shaping post-course opinions about climate change. Methods - Surveys - Surveys were given to two environmental science courses for nonmajors: a) FW 203 Resource Ecology (class I taught Spring semester) b) ISP 217 Water and the Environment - An initial 15 question survey asked for student opinions on climate change and what sources of information had the most influence - A follow-up survey at the end of the semester asked the same questions, but also included questions on science educational background, opinions about science and scientists, and a brief assessment of scientific literacy. Methods - Surveys Example survey questions: - From what you have read and heard, is there solid evidence that the average temperature of the earth has been getting warmer over the past few decades? (Yes/No/I Don’t Know) If yes, then: a) Mostly due to human activities such as burning fossil fuels b) Mostly because of natural patterns in the earth’s environment c) Don’t know - Rate on a scale from 1-5, how much influence each of the following sources had on your opinion about climate change before taking this course (1 = very influential, 5 = non influential) a) What I’ve learned from previous classes b) Opinions of friends and family….. f) What I’ve seen from watching the news Course Student Summary FW 203 Resource Ecology ISP 217 Water & the Environment 26 150 Science Majors 31% 0% Ave. # HS Science Courses 4.3 3.6 Ave. # College Science Courses 5.1 1.4 Find Science Interesting Think that scientists are working on behalf of public 100% 89% 73% 85% Ave. nature of science/scientific literacy score 83% 77% # of initial survey responses 23 110 # of successul follow-up survey responses 19 44 Course # Students Initial Survey Results 100% FW 203 Incoming Opinion PEW Survey of Adults 80% No/Don't know 60% Yes 100% 100% 80% 80% 40% 20% 20% 0% 77% 47% Is there global warming? and if so, because of humans? 60% 60% 40% 0% ISP 217 Incoming Opinion 40% 20% 96% 74% Is there global warming? and if so, because of humans? 0% 78% 63% Is there global warming? and if so, because of humans? Students taking these courses already have a higher acceptance rate of human-induced global warming coming into the course than adults in the PEW survey. Initial Survey Results Very influential 1 Read in science/newspaper articles Not influential 2 3 4 5 FW 203 ISP 217 Learned from previous classes Discussing the issue with other people Watching news on TV Opinions of friends and family Read on opinion page in newspapers Read on blogs, non-news websites Specific associations between climate change opinions and a number of co-factors including, measures of scientific literacy, science background and opinions about scientists, are still being analyzed. Follow-up Survey Results FW 203 Follow-up Opinion ISP 217 Follow-up Opinion 100% 100% 80% 80% 60% 60% 40% 40% 20% 20% 0% 95% 89% Is there global warming? and if so, because of humans? 0% 83% 71% Is there global warming? and if so, because of humans? The follow-up survey indicated that acceptance rates of human-induced global warming increased to nearly 90% in the FW203 course and 71% in the ISP course. Follow-up Survey Results Very influential 1 Not influential 2 3 4 Learned from this course FW 203 Read from science/newspaper articles Textbook/readings from this course ISP 217 Learned from previous courses Discussions with others Opinions of friends and family Watching news on TV Read on opinion pages Read on blogs/non-news websites 5 Follow-up Survey Results – Active vs. Passive Learning Very influential 1 Lecture material with data/graphs from IPCC Lectures from this course Readings from the textbook In class discussions Climate change legislation group project Jigsaw group instruction activity Not influential 2 3 4 5 FW 203 Examples of Active Learning Group presentations on climate change solutions Next Steps and Implications Analyze specific associations between climate change opinions and co-factors including: measures of scientific literacy, science background and opinions about scientists - A preliminary analysis indicates that students appear less likely to accept climate change if they don’t believe there is a consensus among scientists. Emphasize hard-data in lectures and perhaps tie this into active learning activities such as analyzing a CO2 or temperature data set from multiple observatories. Acknowledgements Kendra Cheruvelil (Mentor) FAST Steering Committee Fellow FAST students QUESTIONS?