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Science Education

"Climate Confusion Among U.S. Teachers"

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Most science teachers have an "insufficient grasp of the science" behind climate change that may hurt their teaching, finds a study in the February issue of the journal Science.

The study authors write that more than 95 percent of climate scientists attribute global warming to human causes, yet teachers convey mixed messages on this to students.

In a nationally representative sample of 1,500 middle and high school science teachers, three-quarters reported devoting at least an hour of classroom discussion to global warming. However, 30 percent of teachers said they emphasize that global warming "is likely due to natural causes"—in direct contrast to the scientific consensus. Another 12 percent do not emphasize human impact, and half of those teachers offer no explanation at all. Nearly 1 in 3 teachers sent "explicitly contradictory messages," about human and natural climate change causes.

This may be because many teachers don't know the scientific consensus, the study found. The researchers, who are from Pennsylvania State University, Wright State University in Ohio, and the National Center for Science Education, which advocates for accurate climate change education, found a majority of science teachers think more than 20 percent of climate scientists disagree that human activities are the primary cause of global warming.

Vol. 35, Issue 22, Page 5

Published in Print: February 24, 2016, as Science Education
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