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, Gabi Trainor, research assistant

Timeframe: January 2020 to May 2021

Funding: $5,000

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

Final report: View Tara Holland's final report (PDF) >>

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 had planned to present this at the SFU Symposium for Teaching and Learning, but the format was
different this year. I’ll present it next year if the format goes back to normal. Otherwise, I’ll share the results with colleagues through our departmental News. I’ll be presenting this work as a poster at the Earth Educators’ Rendezvous in July 2021. I am also preparing a manuscript this summer for publication in Canadian Geographer. Both will be coauthored with my undergrad research assistant.

Keywords: Climate change, climate change literacy, misconceptions, learning gains, concept inventory, interdisciplinary, active learning