Climate Change Professional Development: Design, Implementation, and Initial Outcomes on Teacher Learning, Practice, and Student Beliefs

April 2016

Source: Journal of Science Teacher Education, Volume 27, Issue 3, April 2016, p. 235–258

(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The authors investigated the design and implementation of the Climate Academy, a professional development project intended to help teachers learn about climate change and support the development and implementation of climate change topics in participating teachers’ curricula.

The participants were 27 science teachers from Delaware and Maryland, who participated in the Climate Academy program. This program was delivered through a combination of face-to-face and online interactions. Sixteen teachers were from Delaware and 11 were from Maryland. Furthermore, fourteen participants were middle school teachers, 7 were high school teachers, two were higher education faculty and 4 were informal science teachers.

Data were collected through daily reflections on PD activities from the residential summer institute, and instructional units on climate change topics developed by all participants throughout their participation in the Climate Academy.
The authors also conducted a focal case study participant. They focused on an experienced middle school teacher, who taught seventh- and eighth-grade science to approximately 150 students each academic year. They collected classroom observations, interviews, and surveys on students’ beliefs around climate change the teacher's classroom.

This article indicates that a focus on the science of climate change and modeling of theoretically driven pedagogical activities can help teachers improve their climate science knowledge as well as their understanding of how to teach climate science concepts by aligning content and practices with students’ local environment.

Furthermore, the authors found that all teachers appreciated the opportunity to learn important content from climate experts and experience hands-on modeling during the summer institute.
The authors argued that this model proved successful in supporting teachers’ effectiveness at developing lessons for their students that focused on climate change. They found that most participants planned on implementing a variation in challenge by providing pedagogical suggestions for how to adapt both content presentation and modeling activities for different grade levels.
The authors, however, found that an overwhelming number of participants remained concerned about their ability to integrate climate change with their local curriculum.

The authors conclude that this study demonstrates that with ongoing supports that emphasize content learning, pedagogical supports, and place-based relevance, teachers can encourage student learning about climate change science in meaningful ways that promote deeper understanding of Earth’s changing climate.

Updated: Nov. 11, 2018