November 7, 2008

Purdue receives grant to help students learn about climate change

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Purdue University researchers will investigate how middle and high school students learn about global warming and climate change, thanks to a grant from the National Science Foundation.

The four-year, $1.5 million grant is for a project titled "Making Sense of Global Warming and Climate Change: Model of Student Learning via Collaborative Research."

"This research will help students learn science in a coherent way," said Anita Roychoudhury, principal investigator and associate professor of science education. "It will also help teachers and science educators develop a better understanding of the ways students learn."

In addition to Roychoudhury, the research team includes co-investigators Andrew Hirsch, professor of physics; Daniel Shepardson, professor of geoenvironmental and science education; Dev Niyogi, assistant professor of agronomy and earth and atmospheric sciences; and Brenda Capobianco, associate professor of science education.

"Little research has been conducted that investigates students' conceptions about climate change, so this study is needed to help teachers develop curriculums," Shepardson said. "Teaching and learning about climate change is conceptually challenging. Although students can collect local weather data and relate it to local climate, they cannot monitor climate change due to time and scale issues. In order to learn about climate change, they must interpret, analyze, explain and evaluate historical data and model-based data projections."

The team plans to construct models for students and teachers to improve classroom instruction of global warming and climate change topics.

"Global warming and climate change is one of the most significant problems that we face today, and education will likely play a key part in the solution," said James Lehman, head of the Purdue's Department of Curriculum and Instruction. "This project is significant because it will help us better understand how students learn about the subject and how we can best teach the scientific concepts related to this important problem."

Shepardson said, "Teaching about climate change is essential if students are to become knowledgeable citizens responsible for making informed decisions about climate change and our planet."

Writer: Tonya Agnew, (765) 494-0568,

Source: Anita Roychoudhury,

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

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