“Globalizing the science classroom”. Exploring development of students’ conceptual understanding of climate change from international peer collaboration
University of Oslo, Norway
Climate change is not local, it is global. This means that many environmental issues related to climate change are not geographically limited and hence concern humans in more than one location. There is a growing body of research indicating that today’s increased climate change is caused by human activities and our modern lifestyle can be a contributing factor. Consequently, climate change awareness and attention from the entire world’s population needs to be a global priority and we need to work collaboratively to attain a sustainable future. A powerful tool in this process is to develop understanding of climate change through education. Recognizing this, climate change has been included in many science curricula as a part of science education in school. However, teaching a complex and global topic as climate change is not easy. The research in this thesis has been driven by this challenge.
The aim of the study is to understand the development of students’ conceptual understanding of climate change from international peer collaboration. The research has used both quantitative and qualitative methods, through analyses of questionnaires, interviews and student text responses from 157 secondary students (age 16-19) from Canada (n=30), China (n=46), Sweden (n=52) and Norway (n=29). These students have been engaged for six weeks in an inquiry-based science module, Global Climate Exchange, which was developed for this study. In addition an assessment tool, the Ecological Understanding Tool, has been developed to enable tracing the development of students’ conceptual ecological understanding.
The results from the studies in this thesis show that giving students opportunities to collaborate with international peers can be productive for them to develop a coherent understanding of the complexity of global climate change. The results also show that a way to allow and support this development is to implement an inquiry-based science module like Global Climate Exchange, and the Ecological Understanding Tool can be applied to assess this development.
The findings are valuable for development of secondary science education, in particular when teaching global and complex topics, like climate change. Additional is the development of the assessment tool a valuable contribution for analytic work in science education research.
This dissertation is a contribution to the field of science education research. The work has been conducted from 2008 to 2012, at the Department of Teacher Training and School Development, University of Oslo.
Findings from the thesis are under publication in the following journal articles
Korsager, M. (2012) (under revision). The Ecological Understanding Tool (ECUT): Assessing General and Subject Specific Aspects of Students' Ecological Conceptual Understanding. Manuscript submitted to IJESE - International Journal of Environmental and Science Education.
Korsager, M., & Slotta, J. D. (2012) (under revision). "Climate change is global, not local" - A study of the Development of Students' Ecological and Global Understanding of Climate Change. Manuscript submitted to IJESE - International Journal of Environmental and Science Education.
Korsager, M., Slotta, J. D. & Jorde, D. (2012) (under review). Global Climate Exchange - Peer Collaboration in a "Global Classroom". Manuscript submitted to NorDiNa - Nordic Studies in Science Education.
Associate Professor at the Norwegian Centre for Science Education