Survey shows inconsistencies in climate change education in Iowa


Des Moines University Associate Dean of the Department of Global Health Yogesh Shah speaks during the Climate Science Educators Forum at Des Moines University on Friday, October 9, 2015. ©2015 KC McGinnis
Des Moines University Associate Dean of the Department of Global Health Yogesh Shah speaks during the Climate Science Educators Forum at Des Moines University on Friday, October 9, 2015.
(KC McGinnis/CGRER)
Nick Fetty | April 27, 2016

Educators in Iowa differ in their opinions of how to teach climate change, according to a pair of surveys conducted in a collaboration by Iowa Watch and the Cedar Falls High School newspaper Tiger Hi-Line.

The two separate surveys show the views of both teachers and students for how to approach climate change education. While the survey results from the sample of 133 Iowa teachers were not large enough to show a clear trend, the findings were consistent with a study by the National Center for Science Education published in the journal Science earlier this year. Nearly half (48 percent) of the teachers polled in the Iowa survey said that climate change should be taught as theory and that multiple theories exist without consensus on which ones are right or wrong.

The student survey polled 245 pupils from six Iowa high schools and one middle school. While students and teachers were generally in agreement for their personal opinions on climate change (81 percent of teachers and 60 percent of students responded that “Global temperatures are getting warmer and having an impact on weather patterns”) and humans’ role in climate change (62 of teachers and 42 percent of students responded that “Human activity contributes to climate change as well as natural changes in the environment”), the two groups differed in where they get their information about climate change. A majority of students (60 percent) cited news reports as the main source they use for forming their views on climate change compared to the majority of teachers (95 percent) who cited scientific reports as their main source of climate information.

Since 2013, the annual Iowa Climate Science Educators Forum has served as a workshop for science educators to learn about the latest scientific research in regard to climate change as well as effective methods for teaching climate-related courses to students.

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