95th ESA Annual Meeting (August 1 -- 6, 2010)

SYMP 2 - Where's the Carbon? Increasing Public Understanding of Global Warming with Improved College Science Education

Monday, August 2, 2010: 1:30 PM-5:00 PM
403-405, David L Lawrence Convention Center
Nicole T. Welch
Charlene D'Avanzo
Nicole T. Welch
Less than one-third of American adults qualified as scientifically literate in 2007. Science education research has worked diligently to identify student misconceptions, especially in the areas of physics, chemistry, and biology. While this work remains extremely valuable in terms of identifying concepts that students find confusing, it has had little impact on correcting misconceptions, and improving science literacy, most notably here on the topic of global warming. A scientific understanding of global warming requires one to scale biological processes underlying carbon sources and carbon sinks to ecosystem net primary productivity and, globally, the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the troposphere. Yet, studies reveal that students (i.e., our educated public) lack basic understanding of terrestrial carbon dynamics, incorrectly stating that the carbon reduced during photosynthesis is absorbed from the soil instead of from the atmosphere. Students do not connect the accumulation of glucose from photosynthesis and other plant macromolecules with plant growth or carbon sinks. Many also think that reducing or stabilizing anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases will result in immediate temperature responses and climate stabilization. If students retain these misconceptions, they do not understand, and are not literate on, the topic of global warming. This symposium will call for a revolution in college science education to improve scientific literacy, and provide ecologists with evidence of pedagogies that reduce occurrences of misunderstandings about global warming. The first talk will challenge ecologists to lead this revolution. Then, we will identify misconceptions in the areas of matter and energy and global warming across different scales of colleges and universities, and hypothesize why these misconceptions persist. The following three speakers will share different pedagogies, structure-function-behavior models, inquiry-based practitioner research, and active-learning strategies, each successful in reducing the number of students retaining misunderstandings about global warming and its underlying biological processes. Finally, we will present results of how student “beliefs” about global warming impact their understanding of the science of global warming. The session will begin with a brief introduction by the moderator, and end with synthesis and discussion. Each speaker will have 30 minutes to share their information.
ESA Education Section
1:35 PM
Communicating climate change: Principles of earth system literacy
David S. Schimel, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology
2:05 PM
Comparing student understanding of carbon-transforming processes across colleges and universities: Why do misunderstandings persist?
Charles W. Anderson, Michigan State University; Charlene D'Avanzo, Hampshire College; Laurel Hartley, University of Colorado Denver; Brook Wilke, Michigan State University; Jennifer H. Doherty, University of Washington
2:35 PM
Dearly departed Grandma Johnson:  Revealing student understanding of carbon cycling with structure-function-behavior models
Diane Ebert-May, Michigan State University; Jennifer L. Momsen, North Dakota State University; Tammy Long, Michigan State University; Sara A. Wyse, Bethel University
3:05 PM
3:45 PM
Using active-learning strategies to address student misunderstandings of global climate change
April Cordero Maskiewicz, Point Loma Nazarene University; Heather P. Griscom, James Madison University; Nicole T. Welch, Mississippi University for Women
4:15 PM
Examining the relationship between student understanding of and belief in climate change
Amy Arnett, Unity College; Casey J. Huckins, Michigan Technological University; Holly A. Petrillo, University of Wisconsin- Stevens Point
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