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Teachers' Climate Change Beliefs May Influence Students, Study Shows

Sep 12, 2016 05:41 AM EDT
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A study published in the journal PLOS ONE reveals that teachers' climate change beliefs may influence students. However, students can still deduce the cause of climate change independently, and does not really rely on their teachers' beliefs completely.

The study surveyed 369 middle school students from coastal North Carolina, a region that has a high-risk of sea levels rising and other associated effects of climate change. And while adults' view of climate change is from worldview and ideology, middle school students are chosen for the study because they are at an age where they are starting to form their own beliefs and opinions about things they see and learn.

Most of the teachers believe that climate change is caused by humans, and they share this view with at least 95 percent of world's climate scientists. And teachers would like to impart this belief to their students to raise awareness of climate change.

About 92 percent of the students believed that climate change is indeed happening, thanks to the awareness that the teachers are giving to the students. According to the news release sent to Nature World News, tthis percentage "was a "strong, positive predictor" of students' belief in global warming."

While it is true that teachers' climate change beliefs indeed can influence the students (as found in the results above), students, however, have different understandings on how climate change happened.

"While students generally mirror a teacher's belief that global warming is happening, when it comes to the cause of climate change, students reason for themselves and reach different conclusions than their teachers do," says Kathryn Stevenson, an assistant professor in North Carolina State's College of Natural Resources and lead author of the study.

Students believe that climate change is caused by humans -- a belief they share with their teachers -- but they believe it is not because that is what their teachers told them. In the end, the students have their own ways to understand why they believe in such.

 "Students could interpret scientific information for themselves and deduce that climate change is human-caused or anthropogenic," says Stevenson, a former science teacher for grades 4-12. "The strongest factor in students' belief in human-caused climate change was their own knowledge of climate science."

While most middle school science teachers only give around one to two hours on climate change topics in their classes, this study is very interesting because teachers are major influencers of learning.

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