Assessing Student Interest and Desire to Learn More About Climate Change Effects on Forests in Middle School: An Intervention-Based Path Model

Jennifer P. Carman, Michaela Zint, Inés Ibáñez

Abstract


Raising students’ interest in climate change may motivate them to learn about this topic as well as to address and adapt to this defining challenge of our time. To investigate how to increase students’ interest in climate change through educational interventions, we conducted an initial study during a two-week pilot unit about how scientists predict the impacts of climate change on local forests. Pre- and post- intervention data were collected from 308 seventh-grade students (ages 12-13) and examined using exploratory factor, multilevel, and path analyses. Students had only moderate levels of interest in, and desire to learn more about, climate change and forests, and these levels did not change as a result of the intervention. Students’ interest in science (personal interest) and in hands-on science activities (situational interest) played more important roles in their development of interest in climate change effects on forests than their perception of climate change risk. Findings suggest that increasing student interest in climate change issues through short educational interventions is likely to present a formidable challenge, and enhancing students’ perception of climate change risk is unlikely to help educators achieve this goal. Future research should build on our intervention-based model of short-term interest development in climate change to generate additional insights about fostering students’ desire to learn more about this critical topic.


Keywords


interest; desire to learn; climate change; middle school; exploratory factor analysis; multilevel analysis; path analysis

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