Relating Research to Practice has identified a limited set of Hot Topics representing pressing issues facing the ISE field. Download synthesis papers or browse research briefs related to these topics.





All research briefs tagged to Communicating Climate Change
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Jakobsson, A., Mäkitalo, Å. & Säljö, R. (2009). Conceptions of knowledge in research on students' understanding of the greenhouse effect. Science Education, 93(6), 978–995.

This study suggests that the assessment of students’ understanding of scientific vocabulary, concepts, and reasoning associated with the greenhouse effect may be better accomplished by observing and understanding learners’ developing language use over time. The indication of previous research that students hold tenacious misconceptions may be an artifact of the questionnaires used. The authors argue that listening to student conversations is the key to better recognize learning. This paper can help ISE educators think more deeply about how and when to assess for student understanding, including considering most appropriate and informative methods.


Devine-Wright, P., Devine-Wright, H., & Fleming, P. (2004). Situational influences upon children’s beliefs about global warming and energy. Environmental Education Research, 10(4), 493–506.

This study highlights the ways in which individuals’ beliefs and their perceptions of self-efficacy can affect their attitudes toward global climate change. Individuals with personal philosophies favoring active cooperation and participation seem more likely to see the value in taking action to fight climate change.


Barton, A. C., & Tan, E. (2010). 'It changed our lives': Activism, science, and greening the community. Canadian Journal of Science, Mathematics and Technology Education, 10(3), 207–222.

In this article, researchers report on the ways that middle school students positioned themselves as agents of change in their community by using the results of their research into local scientific phenomena and advocating for environmental reforms. This article might be of interest to ISE educators who are exploring how their programs can support the emergence of positive science learning identities in their youth participants.


Boyes, E., & Stanisstreet, M. (2012). Environmental education for behaviour change: Which actions should be targeted? International Journal of Science Education, 34(10), 1591–1641.

This study shines light on the complex relationship between student beliefs and student behaviour in the particular context of climate change. Findings indicate that affecting student behaviour is more complicated that simply providing them with information. Rather, their willingness to act is related to their perceptions on the usefulness of such actions.


Birmingham, D., & Calabrese Barton, A. (2014). Putting on a green carnival: Youth taking educated action on socioscientific issues. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 51(3), 286–314.

Through a critical ethnography, Birmingham and Calabrese Barton examined why and how a group of six middle school girls took civic action, defined as “educated action in science,” after studying green energy in an afterschool science program. The paper follows the students’ process in planning and implementing a carnival to engage their community in energy conservation and efficiency issues.


Ratinen, I. J. (2013). Primary student-teachers’ conceptual understanding of the greenhouse effect: A mixed method study. International Journal of Science Education, 35(6), 929–955. doi:10.1080/09500693.2011.587845

The findings of this study suggest that pre-service teachers do not adequately understand key concepts in climate science. They see the greenhouse effect as a problem, not as a natural phenomenon. By contrast, they inaccurately see chlorofluorocarbons as key contributors to global warming. The practical implication is that training programmes for teachers—and indeed for other learners—need to explain key terms more effectively. These programmes must also emphasize the links among causes, consequences, and solutions.


Whitmarsh, L. (2009). What’s in a name? Commonalities and differences in public understanding of “climate change” and “global warming.” Public Understanding of Science 18(4), 401–420. doi:10.1177/0963662506073088

At first glance, public knowledge of climate science appears encouraging. When prompted, most people can correctly identify some of the contributors to climate change. But they are much less likely to do so when they are not shown a checklist of possible causes. This study examined public understanding of two commonly used terms: “global warming” and “climate change.” The findings have important implications for informal science educators seeking to develop effective programmes and exhibitions on climate science.


Punter, P., Ochando-Pardo, M. & Garcia, J. (2011) Spanish secondary school students’ notions on the causes and consequences of climate change. International Journal of Science Education, 33(3), 447–464.

This study presents a disappointing account of Spanish secondary school students’ knowledge and understanding of the causes and consequences of climate change. Many of the key factors responsible for climate change are not recognized, whilst significant socioeconomic consequences of climate change, for example, increasing migration and food shortages, are rarely acknowledged.


Lombardi, D., & Sinatra, G. M. (2013). Emotions about teaching about human-induced climate change. International Journal of Science Education 35(1), 167–191. doi:10.1080/09500693.2012.738372

Do teachers’ emotions about climate change affect their approach to instruction? Researchers examined the relationships among teachers’ emotions about climate change, their perceptions of the plausibility of the findings of climate science, and their understanding of climate science. The findings paint a complicated picture of the potential effect of emotions on instructional practice.