Survey: Misinformed Teachers Affecting Global Warming Education


Students are an important part of the ongoing climate change discussion since they will be the ones who live in the changing world, but it seems that US public school pupils aren’t getting accurate information on the issue.

Researchers released the first peer-reviewed national survey of America’s science teachers asking if they teach about climate change, and if they do, what methods they used in the classroom, writes Tim McDonnell of Mother Jones.

The scientists, supported by the National Center for Science Education and in cooperation with Penn State University, surveyed a sample of 1,500 middle and high school science instructors from every state and discovered that classes seem to be facing the same problem as the media. The study found that teachers were giving just as much weight to the science involved in the climate as to the denial that there is a climate change at all.

The report uncovered that 67% of science teachers agreed that global warming has increased mostly because of human activities while 50% of all adults in the US believe the same. 70% of middle school and 87% of high school science teachers spend a minimum of an hour on global warming annually.

The real problem is the inconsistent quality of the lesson plans. Only one-third of the participating teachers said they concentrate on the fact that climate change is “likely due to natural causes,” and 12% said they purposely downplay the importance of human causes. One-third of the subjects said they send contradictory messages by presenting incongruous descriptions of the role of humans in recent increases in temperature.

“What’s surprising is that many teachers personally think humans are the culprit [for climate change], but they are unaware that scientists share their views,” said Eric Plutzer, a political scientist at Pennsylvania State University who was the study’s lead author.

According to Plutzer and his team, the reason behind the findings is not intervention from parents or administrators, which teachers said was a rarity. The researchers advise the mismatch could be that teachers do not know all they should about scientific evidence, such as how carbon dioxide measurements from ice cores.

Many instructors seem not to be aware of the broad scientific agreement on this matter. A majority of survey participants were unaware of the percentage of scientists who believed that global warming is mostly caused by human actions. The correct answer was “81% to 100%.”

One bright spot is the fact that even the instructors who are in denial of the scientific consensus on global warming are agreeable to accepting professional development to understand what and how to teach their students, reports Nicole Gorman for Education World.

“half of the surveyed teachers have allowed students to discuss the supposed ‘controversy’ over climate change without guiding students to the scientifically supported conclusion,” said Josh Rosenau, programs and policy director at the NCSE.

Peter Dockrill writes for Science Alert that it is not only the lack of keeping scientific knowledge current for teachers, but, per one of the survey questions, teachers were allowing political doctrine to dictate their approach in the classroom, giving their preferred views more weight than education or scientific knowledge.

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