Understanding how Queensland teachers' views on climate change and climate change education shape their reported practices

Nicholls, Jennifer Anne (2016) Understanding how Queensland teachers' views on climate change and climate change education shape their reported practices. PhD thesis, James Cook University.

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Abstract

Climate change presents significant challenges to current and future generations. Students must be prepared to face these challenges however climate change education presents many challenges to educators. First, climate science is complex, scientific understandings continue to develop and refine over time with the potential consequences, and implications of a changing climate still quite uncertain. Second, climate change education not only deals with science but is intertwined with many additional complex social, environmental, political, and economic issues which do not fit neatly into school subjects. The Australian Curriculum, including the Cross Curriculum Priority of Sustainability, may provide space for teachers to engage with the complexities of climate change (Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA), 2015a, 2015b) but does not encourage teachers to engage with climate change as a complex, multi-dimensional issue.

When considering the implementation of climate change education the role and perspectives of classroom teachers needs to be examined. Teachers approach curriculum with diverse experiences, ideas, beliefs, and values that shape the way they interpret and respond to curriculum documents (Cotton, 2006; Nespor, 1987; Pajares, 1992). In the context of changing national and state curriculum frameworks and policies concerning education for sustainability (EfS), it is especially important to examine the role and influence of teachers' beliefs about climate change and pedagogy on the climate change education practices within their school classrooms. The purpose of this doctoral research study was to explore teachers' understandings of climate change and climate change education and how these understandings, along with other factors identified by teachers, influence their engagement with and approach to climate change education.

An explanatory sequential (quan -> QUAL) mixed methods research design was used to examine teachers' perceptions of: 1) Climate change, including the credibility of climate change science, the causes of climate change and the likelihood and severity of consequences; and 2) Climate change education, including beliefs relating to the necessity or appropriateness of climate change as an educational focus, and how these beliefs influence teachers' curriculum planning and decisions regarding the issue/topic of climate change. Phase one collected survey data from over 300 Queensland primary and secondary teachers which were analysed to identify their understandings and beliefs relating to the realities, causes, and consequences of climate change and to illuminate how they conceptualise climate change education in terms of pedagogical content and processes. Phase two collected in-depth qualitative data through semi-structured interviews with 21 teachers from across Queensland. Interview data were analysed thematically and built upon data collected in phase one to present a more nuanced understanding of teachers' perceptions.

This research found many teachers accept that the climate is changing, but hold various views on the causes of climate change. Regardless of their position on climate change, teachers in this study indicated that climate change was an educational priority for them. However, it appears that these teachers do not directly engage with climate change as a complex multi-dimensional issue or associate climate change learning with action, resilience and adaptive capacity, either individually or within local community contexts. Climate change education, in most cases, is understood to be (climate) science education focused on students developing an opinion on causes. Teachers feel strongly about their role as impartial information providers and many believed climate change 'science' education should be taught using a balanced approach (i.e. providing 'both' sides of the climate change science) and allowing students to make up their own minds. The teachers within this study do not feel supported by their curriculum documents to include climate change and as such many do not include the issue in a formal capacity, but rather rely on incidental conversations and discussions. Teachers that do include climate change within their lessons, source information on the issue through personal investigation and self-learning. These findings suggest that Queensland's formal schooling sector's capacity for preparing Queensland students to be informed, decision making citizens on climate change must be questioned and highlight the implications for curriculum, resources and teacher professional development.

Item ID: 48975
Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: climate change; education; global warming; pupils; Queensland (QLD); science education; students; teachers; teaching
Date Deposited: 24 May 2017 05:20
FoR Codes: 13 EDUCATION > 1303 Specialist Studies in Education > 130399 Specialist Studies in Education not elsewhere classified @ 100%
SEO Codes: 97 EXPANDING KNOWLEDGE > 970113 Expanding Knowledge in Education @ 100%
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