Scientists, educators and stakeholders are grappling with how to best approach climate change education for diverse audiences, a task made difficult due to persistent social controversy. This Perspective examines how sociocultural learning theories can inform the design and implementation of climate change education experiences for learners with varied understandings of and attitudes towards climate change. The literature demonstrates that explicitly addressing learners' social and community experiences, values and knowledge supports understandings of and increased concern about climate change. Science learning environments that situate climate change in its social context can support conceptual understandings, shift attitudes and increase the participation of diverse communities in responding to climate change. Examples are provided of successful programmes that attend to social dimensions and learners' previous experiences, including experiences of social controversy.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution
Subscribe to Journal
Get full journal access for 1 year
only $8.25 per issue
All prices are NET prices.
VAT will be added later in the checkout.
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.
All prices are NET prices.
National Research Council Taking Science to School: Learning and Teaching Science in Grades K-8 (eds Duschl, R. A., Schweingruber, H. A. & Shouse, A. W.) (The National Academies Press, 2007). This is a report of consensus research on science learning that examines the multiple dimensions or 'strands' of science learning, theoretical foundations, pedagogical practice, assessment and diversity in science.
National Research Council Learning Science in Informal Environments: People, Places, and Pursuits (eds Bell, P., Lewenstein, B., Shouse, A. W. & Feder M. A.) (The National Academies Press, 2009). This report on consensus research on science learning in out-of-school environments extends the dimensions of science learning and discusses the theory and practice of learning in informal environments.
Bransford, J. D., Brown, A. L. & Cocking, R. R. (eds) How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School (The National Academies Press, 2000).
Banks, J. A. et al. Learning In and Out of School in Diverse Environments: Life-long, Life-wide, Life-deep (The LIFE Center and the Center for Multicultural Education, Univ. Washington, 2007).
Grajal, A. & Goldman, S. R. Climate Change Education: A Primer for Zoos and Aquariums (Chicago Zoological Society, 2012).
National Research Council Climate Change Education in Formal Settings, K-14: A Workshop Summary (rapporteur Beatty, A.) (The National Academies Press, 2012).
NGSS Lead States Next Generation Science Standards: For States, By States (The National Academies Press, 2013).
National Research Council A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas (eds Quinn, H., Schweingruber, H. & Keller, T.) (The National Academies Press, 2011).
Maibach, E., Roser-Renouf, C. & Leiserowitz, A. Global Warming's Six Americas 2009: An Audience Segmentation Analysis (Yale Project on Climate Change Communication, 2009). Based on survey results of the US public, this analysis identifies six different audiences for climate change communication defined by their understandings of and attitudes towards climate change.
Kohut, A., Doherty, C., Dimock, M. & Keeter, S. Little Change in Opinions About Global Warming Increasing Partisan Divide on Energy Policies (Pew Research Center, 2010).
Leiserowitz, A., Maibach, E., Roser-Renouf, C., Feinberg, G. & Howe, P. Climate Change in the American Mind: Americans' Global Warming Beliefs and Attitudes in April 2013 (Yale Project on Climate Change Communication, 2013).
McCright, A. M. & Dunlap, R. E. The politicization of climate change and polarization in the American public's views of global warming. Sociol. Quart. 52, 155–194 (2011).
Pidgeon, N. Public understanding of, and attitudes to, climate change: UK and international perspectives and policy. Clim. Policy 12, S85–S106 (2012).
Nasir, N. S., Rosebery, A. S., Warren, B. & Lee, C. D. in The Cambridge Handbook of the Learning Sciences (ed. Sawyer, R. K.) 489–504 (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2006).
Rogoff, B. The Cultural Nature of Human Development (Oxford Univ. Press, 2003).
DiSessa, A. A. in The Cambridge Handbook of the Learning Sciences (ed. Sawyer, R. K.) 265–281 (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2006).
Cailon et al. Timing of atmospheric CO2 and Antarctic temperature changes across Termination III. Science 299, 1728–1731 (2003).
Vygotsky, L. S. The Collected Works of L. S. Vygotsky: Problems of General Psychology Including the Volume Thinking and Speech Vol. 1 (trans. Minick, N.) (Plenum, 1987).
Lave, J. & Wenger, E. Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation (Cambridge Univ. Press, 1991).
Wenger, E. Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning, and Identity (Cambridge Univ. Press, 1998).
Aikenhead, G. S. Science education: border crossing into the subculture of science. Stud. Sci. Educ. 27, 1–52 (1996).
Stanley, W. B. & Brickhouse, N. W. Teaching sciences: the multicultural question revisited. Sci. Educ. 85, 35–49 (2001).
Calabrese Barton, A. & Yang, K. The culture of power and science education: learning from Miguel. J. Res. Sci. Teach. 37, 871–889 (2000).
Ladson-Billings, G. The Dream-Keepers: Successful Teachers of African American Children (Jossey-Bass, 1994). This book profiles eight classroom teachers and examines their culturally responsive teaching practices.
Ladson-Billings, G. But that's just good teaching! The case for culturally relevant pedagogy. Theor. Pract. 34, 159–165 (1995).
Ladson-Billings, G. Toward a theory of culturally relevant pedagogy. Am. Educ. Res. J. 32, 465–491 (1995).
Tsurusaki, B. K., Calabrese Barton, A., Tan, E., Koch, P. & Contento, I. Using transformative boundary objects to create critical engagement in science: a case study. Sci. Educ. 97, 1–31 (2013).
Gay, G. Culturally Responsive Teaching: Theory, Research & Practice (Teachers College Press, 2000).
Calabrese Barton, A. & Tan, E. Funds of knowledge and discourse and hybrid space. J. Res. Sci. Teach. 46, 50–73 (2009).
Calabrese Barton, A., Tan, E. & Rivet, A. Creating hybrid spaces for engaging school science among urban middle school girls. Am. Educ. Res. J. 45, 68–103 (2008).
Warren, B. & Roseberry, A. S. in Teaching Science to English Language Learners: Building on Students' Strengths (eds Rosebery, A. S. & Warren, B.) 39–50 (National Science Teachers Association Press, 2008).
Bostrom, A., Morgan, M. G., Fischhoff, B. & Read, D. What do people know about global climate change? 1. Mental models. Risk Anal. 14, 959–970 (1994).
Boyes, E. & Stanisstreet, M. High school students' perceptions of how major global environmental effects might cause skin cancer. J. Environ. Educ. 29, 31–36 (1998).
Boyes, E., Stanisstreet, M. & Papantoniou, V. S. The ideas of Greek high school students about the ozone layer. Sci. Educ. 83, 724–737 (1999).
Tsurusaki, B. K. & Anderson, C. W. Students' understanding of connections between human engineered and natural environmental systems. Int. J. Environ. Sci. Educ. 5, 407–433 (2010).
Donner, S. D. & McDaniels, J. The influence of national temperature on opinions about climate change in the US since 1990. Climatic Change 118, 537–550 (2013).
Nisbet, M. C. & Mooney, C. Framing science. Science 316, 56 (2007).
Boykoff, M. T. Flogging a dead norm? Newspaper coverage of anthropogenic climate change in the United States and United Kingdom from 2003–2006 Area 39, 470–481 (2007).
Verhey, S. D. The effect of engaging prior learning on student attitudes toward creationism and evolution. BioScience 55, 996–1003 (2005).
Scott, E. C. & Branch, G. Evolution: What's wrong with 'teaching the controversy'. Trends Ecol. Evol. 18, 499–502 (2003).
Walsh, E. M. An Examination of Climate Scientists' Participation in Education: Implications for the Teaching and Learning of Socially Controversial Science (Univ. Washington, College of Education, 2012).
Roehrig, G. et al. in Ann. Meet. Assoc. Sci. Teach. Educ. (Clear Water Beach, Florida, 2012); http://go.nature.com/JURSTP
National Research Council Climate Change Education: Goals, Audiences and Strategies. A Workshop Summary (rapporteurs Forrest, S. & Feder, M. A.) (The National Academies Press, 2011).
Alexander, C. et al. Linking indigenous and scientific knowledge of climate change. Bioscience 61, 477–484 (2011).
IPCC Climate Change 2007: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability (eds Parry, M. L., Canziani, O. F., Palutikof, J. P., van der Linden, P. J. & Hanson, C. E.) (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2007).
Wibeck, V. Enhancing learning, communication and public engagement about climate change — some lessons from recent literature. Environ. Educ. Res. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13504622.2013.812720 (2013).
Clayton S. et al. Connecting to nature at the zoo: implications for responding to climate change. Environ. Educ. Res. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13504622.2013.816267 (2013).
Sadler, T. D. Informal reasoning regarding socioscientific issues: a critical review of research. J. Res. Sci. Teach. 41, 513–536 (2004).
Rose, S. L. & Calabrese Barton, A. Should great lakes city build a new power plant? How youth navigate socioscientific issues. J. Res. Sci. Teach. 49, 541–567 (2012).
Kahan, D. M. et al. The polarizing impact of science literacy and numeracy on perceived climate change risks. Nature Clim. Change. 2, 732–735 (2012).
McCaffrey, M. & Rosenau, J. Science literacy still matters. Nature Clim. Change. 2, 636 (2012).
Rockoff, J. E. The impact of individual teachers on student achievement: evidence from panel data. Am. Econ. Rev. 94, 247–252 (2004).
Bell, P. in Internet Environments for Science Education (eds Linn, M., Davis, E. & Bell, P.) 233–260 (Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2004).
The authors declare no competing financial interests.
About this article
Cite this article
Walsh, E., Tsurusaki, B. Social controversy belongs in the climate science classroom. Nature Clim Change 4, 259–263 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1038/nclimate2143
This article is cited by
Nature Climate Change (2016)