Measuring Student Improvement in Climate Literacy in a First-Year Interdisciplinary Climate Change Course

Grant program: Teaching and Learning Development Grant (TLDG)

Grant recipientTara Holland, Faculty of Environment

Project teamSharla Stolhandske, Faculty of Environment, research assistant, TBD

Timeframe: January 2020 to May 2021

Funding: $5,000

Course addressed: GEOG 104 – Climate Change, Water, and Society

Description: GEOG 104 is designed as both a Breadth-Science and Breadth-Social Science course, with one of the main educational goals being to improve climate literacy. This class attracts students with a wide range of climate change knowledge, including some common misconceptions about climate change. For this project, I will be measuring the effectiveness of the GEOG 104 course in improving students’ climate change literacy. I will administer a validated climate change concept inventory of multiple-choice questions. This survey tests for common climate change misconceptions, and also contains a section on assessing beliefs about scientific consensus on climate change, as well as confidence in students’ knowledge about climate change. I plan to use the results to ascertain whether I need to change the way in which I teach some aspects of the course in order to improve student learning with respect to climate literacy. This information will also be useful as I work to develop an online offering of this class.

Questions addressed:

  • What are the most common misconceptions about climate change held by students before taking the course?
  • Are these misconceptions corrected by taking the course?
  • Do students’ understanding of climate change concepts improve after taking the course?
  • Are pre-class scores and learning gains correlated with students’ degree program or year of study?
  • Does students’ confidence in their answers predict concept test scores?
  • How do students’ beliefs about scientific consensus on climate change compare pre- and post-taking the course?
  • Which activities/assignments in the course best support student climate literacy?

Knowledge sharing: I will share my findings with my departmental colleagues through a teaching newsletter. We will also put together a presentation for the Symposium on Teaching and Learning in Spring 2021.