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Finding out what educators and their students know about climate change

By Anastasija Ignatova posted 02-11-2021 16:25

To mark the launch of the Climate Change Educational Partnership (CCEP), STEM Learning surveyed educators to find out about climate change teaching in schools. Over 200 educators completed the survey, and while the majority of these were based in the UK, responses were received from every continent in the world!
First, respondents' perceptions of climate change were examined from which high levels of awareness and understanding were uncovered:
  • 96% of educators agreed that they are concerned about climate change
  • 93% reported that they understood what climate change is, and 91% believed they knew what its causes are
  • 94% reported that they were aware of the range of impacts climate change could have on the planet
  • 87% were aware of how scientific developments can help mitigate the impacts of climate change 
The survey also assessed the level of confidence educators had at correctly identifying some common myths about climate change. Over 83% of respondents were confident that each of the following were myths: ‘extreme weather events such as hurricanes and flooding can’t be caused by climate change’, ‘renewable energy can only work when it is sunny or windy’, and ‘there’s no scientific consensus on the causes of climate change’. This suggests that the educators who were surveyed generally have a solid grounding in the topic of climate change and understand it well enough to avoid falling victim to misinformation. 
To gain an insight into how their students perceive this topic, educators were also asked to estimate the proportion of students they teach whom a specific set of statements applied to. The picture was mixed, with the majority of respondents indicating that over half of their students have a good understanding of climate change (60%) and are concerned about it (66%). However, only 48% of educators reported that over half of their students had an awareness of the causes of climate change. Similarly, students’ understanding of the range of impacts climate change can have and how scientific developments can mitigate it was also low (reported by 43% and 33% of educators respectively).
Finally, survey respondents were asked about what support offered by the CCEP would benefit them the most. The most overwhelmingly popular choices were resources and classroom activities (94%), with competition and challenge opportunities for students second (61%), and training third (52%).
Overall, the educators surveyed reported high levels of knowledge and concern about climate change, but the attitudes they perceived among their students were more variable, particularly where the impacts of climate change are concerned.

These survey results, together with the support requirements that educators identified, will be used to shape the provision the CCEP offers and ensure it meets the needs of teachers and students alike.

There’s still time to complete the survey to tell us how the Partnership can best support you and your students.
To find out about the latest opportunities to develop your teaching on climate change, visit the CCEP webpage.
Written by: Amy Newman, Project Officer and Daniel Pledger, Research Assistant