Climate Crisis Learning through Scaffolded Instructional Tools

Socially-relevant and controversial topics, such as the climate crisis, are subject to differences in the explanations that scientists and the public find plausible. Scaffolds can help students be evaluative of the validity of explanations based on evidence when addressing such topics and support knowledge gains.

This study compared two scaffolds in which students weighed connections between lines of evidence and explanations for the topics of climate change and extreme weather events.

A Wilcoxon-signed rank test showed that students’ plausibility judgements shifted towards scientifically accepted explanations and that students increased their knowledge about climate crisis topics after completing both activities. A structural equation model suggested that students’ shifts in plausibility judgements drive their knowledge gains for the extreme weather activity, but the climate change activity demonstrated a possible ceiling effect in its usefulness for learning.

When students choose their lines of evidence and explanatory models, their plausibility reappraisals result in greater levels of post-instructional knowledge. Although effect sizes were modest, the results of this study demonstrate that students’ explicit reappraisal of plausibility judgements can support deeper learning of climate crisis issues.

Bailey, J. M., Jamani, S. Klavon, T. G., Jaffe J., and Mohan, S. (2021) Climate crisis learning through scaffolded instructional tools. Educational and Developmental Psychologist.