30 SES 04 B, Investigations on Pre-service Science Teachers' Views
This paper reports on a survey of attitudes amongst Norwegian pre-service science teachers, towards the issue of human-induced climate change and the ways in which they envision engaging these issues in their future teaching practice.
Despite the scientific consensus on the issue of human-induced climate change and the increasing degree to which the consequences of climate change are being observed and communicated, a surprisingly large, and in some areas growing, proportion of people in western societies does not believe a global warming is taking place (see for example Capstick, Whitmarsh, Poortinga, Pidgeon, & Upham, 2015; McCright, Dunlap, & Marquart-Pyatt, 2016). This discrepancy between scientific consensus and public opinion makes politicians hesitant to act according to scientific recommendations (see for example Hoffman, 2015). And although the science of human induced climate change is uncontroversial, the actions needed to reduce climate change is much debated. Antropogenic climate changecan therefore be considered a socioscientific issue (SSI). Critically understanding SSIs are considered an important part of becoming scientific literate (Herman, Sadler, Zeidler, & Newton, 2018; Peel, Sadler, Kinslow, Zangori, & Friedrichsen, 2017; Sadler, Romine, & Topçu, 2016). Teaching SSIs are therefore part of several teacher education programmes, also in Norway.
Public attitudes towards climate change in most western societies varies according to many factors, and tends to mirror traditional demographics for environmental concern in general. One is more likely to favor a belief in human caused climate change if one is female rather than male, young rather than old, more educated rather than less, live in an urban rather than rural area and more politically liberal than conservative (Borick & Rabe, 2010; Corner et al., 2015; McCright & Dunlap, 2011; Wikle, 1995). People with first-hand experience of climate change are more likely to be climate change convinced (Goebbert, Jenkins-Smith, Klockow, Nowlin, & Silva, 2012), and on the other end of the scale, people who are experiencing negative effects of an emerging green shift might be more likely to be climate change contrarian in their attitudes towards climate change science.
Since the oil crisis of 2014, over 20 000 petroleum-related positions have been lost in Norway, including many engineers and others with degrees in natural sciences such as physics, geology and chemistry (Ekeland, 2017). As a direct result of this, teacher education institutions on the Norwegian west coast, where most of the oil industry is situated, have experienced a strong influx of students from the oil industry who wish to qualify as science teachers. Such an influx of teachers with similar educational, occupational backgrounds and experiences could have consequences for the status and manner in which the SSI of climate change is understood and taught in primary and secondary schools. It is therefore important to understand the attitudes of these pre-service teachers.
With this in mind, a survey was conducted to compare this group of students with students in similar post-graduate teacher training courses in other parts of Norway. More specifically, I investigated how the degree of association with the petroleum industry (as estimated by the respondent’s geographical and social background, education and work experience) covaried with: 1) belief in antropogenic climate change and perception of its importance as an environmental issue, and 2) these pre-service teachers’ thoughts on teaching sustainability and the issue of climate change. The findings from this study can be used to search for solutions to the challenge for teacher education programmes in preparing science teachers to cope with this and similar socioscientific controversies in their teaching practices.
This study is based on a survey of students enrolled at six different Norwegian teacher education institutions, all offering the «Practical and didactic education»-course (in Norwegian: praktisk pedagogisk utdanning/PPU), a one year educational run aimed at giving people with a completed university or university college education of minimum 3 years and minimum 60 credits a teacher training. This teacher training then qualifies for teaching positions in the upper primary and lower and upper secondary school and in adult education. For this study I focused on students with an post-graduate background in the natural sciences or subjects in agriculture, fishing and forestry, and who therefore were studying to qualify as science teachers. This group of pre-service science teachers usually have some work experience in science-related professions, but have, for a range of reasons, decided to pursue a career in the education system. As a group, the students have all received higher level training in scientific thinking, in addition to training in their subject within the natural sciences. One would therefore assume that they would tend to agree with the scientific evidence for human-cause climate change. This student group should also have a good understanding of the way in which scientific consensus is reached, and therefore show attitudes aligned with that of the IPCC on this issue. These students therefore provide an interesting group of pre-service science teachers with regards to their attitudes towards a SSI, such as human-caused climate change. The survey was conducted using an online survey tool (SurveyXact), of which a link was distributed to the students by their subject teachers who had previously agreed on asking their students to participate in the study. A total of 255 teacher students could potentially be reached, and of these a total of 197 students entered and completed the survey to varying degrees. The survey was designed so as to collect information about the students’ geographical background and their degree of association with the petroleum industry, their concerns about environmental issues, with special emphasis on climate change, and the students’ intention of including these issues in their ideas about their future teaching practice.
Preliminary analyses of data from the survey reveal that students from the west coast of Norway appear to hold clearly more climate contrarian attitudes compared to students from other parts of Norway. West coast students consistently assigned the issue of human-caused climate change a lower importance than other environmental issues, they tended to be more sceptical towards the idea of human-caused climate change, and did to a lesser degree believe that current severe weather patterns are caused by human-caused climate change. These climate contrarian viewpoints spilled over into the students’ thoughts on teaching. West coast students believed that the climate change issue is exaggerated and that more important issues should be prioritized, compared with students from the rest of the country. Furthermore, they also felt that one should be more critical towards climate change claims in the class room. Results of the more detailed analysis of how students’ degree of association with the petroleum industry covaries with attitudes towards the issue of climate change and these students’ approach to teaching this SSI will also be presented. All in all, this study may indicate that regions with a declining oil industry might experience an influx of teachers with climate contrarian views into their shool systems. In this talk I will attempt to suggest ways in which teacher education and teachers trainers might meet these challenges in education for sustainable development.
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