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Climate Confusion Among US Teachers

posted on 10:04 AM, February 14, 2016
A recent article in Science Magazine summarizes US science teachers grasp of climate change. The New York Times is interested in hearing from teachers!

Do you include climate change in your courses?  The NY Times would
like to hear from you. Info is at the end of this post. -- Jane

Climate confusion among U.S. teachers
   by    Eric Plutzer, Mark McCaffrey, A. Lee Hannah, Joshua Rosenau,
Minda Berbeco, Ann H. Reid

... whereas most U.S. science teachers include climate science in their courses, their insufficient grasp of the science may hinder effective teaching. Mirroring some actors in the societal debate over climate change, many teachers repeat scientifically unsupported claims in class. Greater attention to teachers' knowledge, but also values, is critical.

"... when asked "what proportion of climate scientists think that global warming is caused mostly by human activities?"- only 30% of middle-school and 45% of high-school science teachers selected the correct option of "81 to 100%." Even among teachers who agree that human activities are the main cause of global warming (a large majority of all science teachers), only 52% know the percentage of scientists who share their view."

"Although only 2% of teachers personally denied that recent global warming is happening, almost one-sixth (15%) believe that it is mostly driven by natural causes, and another one-sixth thought that human and natural causes are equally important."

"Fewer than half of the teachers report any formal instruction in climate science in college. Two-thirds of teachers (including 50% of those who believe that natural causes drive global warming) said they would be interested in continuing education "entirely focused on
climate change."

TABLE S1 and S7, which you can download as a supplement pdf at the URL,  show that only HALF of the physics teachers, and HALF of the chemistry teachers, devoted at least one class hour to recent global warming. Of those who DID devote time, the mean time was about 4 1/2 hours.  The median was 1.5 hour.

This Feb. 11 article in the NY Times summarizes the report.

The NY Times article ends thusly:
"Are you a high school or middle school teacher who includes climate science in your courses? We'd like to know about the curriculum choices you've made and the issues that you've faced. Email us 200 words or fewer to and a Times reporter might follow up with you."