Date of Award

8-2014

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Department

Executive Leadership

First Supervisor

Ronald Valenti

Abstract

Climate change is a subject steeped in controversy. Addressing it in the classroom causes much anxiety for teachers as they struggle with how to teach it. The purpose of this grounded theory study was to uncover the information teachers deem most important to communicate to their students about climate change and the pedagogical strategies they plan to employ in doing so. This study analyzed the responses of 123 teachers who successfully completed an online climate change course. Each teacher provided qualitative data in the form of a response to a course assignment. Analysis of those responses revealed that teachers saw the paucity of vetted lesson plans and lack of time for planning and instruction as the greatest obstacles to effectively teaching about climate change. Few saw denialist opposition from parents as a significant obstacle. The abilities to draw a distinction between climate and weather, to explain carbon dioxide's role as a greenhouse gas, and to address the historical context of past climate change events were shared as critical information for students to master. However, the data revealed teachers are more likely to concentrate on creating a general awareness of climate change and its consequences than they are addressing any specific scientific content. It appears teachers would benefit from rigorous, content-based climate science courses that specifically target climate change misconceptions and that scientists should strive to make their work more accessible to teachers and the general public.

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