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Climate Change Controversy : Student Inquiry

Secondary

Description

Students learn the skills associated with the inquiry process-asking and analyzing questions, making decisions about how to answer them,evaluating information sources, reading and viewing critically, note taking,working with others, sharing, discussing and possibly debating issues -in exploring the climate change debate.

Students are introduced to the debate in two introductory readings that outline criticism of the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Discussion on the inquiry process follows and sets the stage for the student assignment, which is to identify relevant questions they think are critical and to undertake an inquiry that will yield possible answers.

General Assessment

What skills does this resource explicitly teach?

The resource is designed to teach

. students questioning-asking and thinking skills

. students' skills in finding information and examining its worth and reliability

. students' skills in note-taking, organizing information, organizing and communicating one's thoughts logically and effectively to others

Strengths

The resource uses a case study -the climate change controversy - that is both current and significant to teach the skills that are critical to inquiry and central to an effective education system that aims to teach students how to think. In doing so it shows that the either-or controversy over process and product (content) represents a false dichotomy. 

Recommendation of how and where to use it

High school teachers of science, environmental science, world issues, global issues and citizenship education would find the resource useful and relevant in teaching inquiry and critical thinking.

Relevant Curriculum Units

The following tool will allow you to explore the relevant curriculum matches for this resource. To start, select a province listed below.

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  • Alberta
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    • Grade 9
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      • Environmental Science
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        • Environment and Outdoor Education: Environmental Investigations
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        • Science 20: The Changing Earth
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        • Civic Studies: Civic Action
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        • Current Topics in the Sciences 30S: Scientific & Technological Skills & Attitudes
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        • Interdisciplinary Topics in Science 40S:Nature of Science and Technology
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        • Physical Geography 110: The Atmosphere
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        • Environmental Science 120: Investigating Environmental Issues
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        • Environmental Science 3205: The Atmosphere and the Environment
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        • World Geography 3200/3202: World Climate Patterns
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        • /Science 20: The Changing Earth
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        • Environmental Science (Univ/College Prep.) Scientific Solutions to Contemporary Environmental Challenges
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        • The Environment & Resource Management (Univ./College Prep.): Methods of Geographic Inquiry and Communication
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        • World Issues: A Geographic Analysis (College Prep.):Sustainability and Stewardship
        • World Issues: A Geographic Analysis (Univ. Prep.):Sustainability and Stewardship
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        • Interdependence: Atlantic Canada in the Global Community: Citizenship in the Global Community
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        • Environmental Science 621A: Environmental Challenges and Successes
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        • What can I do?
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        • Geography 621A Global Issues : Inquiry- What are the issues?
        • Geography 621A Global Issues: Introduction- What is a global issue?
        • Geography 631A: What are the issues?
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        • The Contemporary World: Environment
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        • Environmental Science & Technology: The Earth and Space
        • Science & Technology: The Earth and Space
        • Science and the Environment: The Earth and Space
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        • Contemporary World: Environment
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        • Civic Studies 11: Civic Action

Themes Addressed

  • Air, Atmosphere & Climate (1)

    • Climate Change
  • Citizenship (1)

    • General Guide to Taking Action
  • Energy (1)

    • Energy Generation

Sustainability Education Principles

Principle Rating Explanation
Consideration of Alternative Perspectives Very Good

The aim of the resource is not to provide students with answers on the climate change controversy but to develop their questioning and thinking skills, to find and evaluate information so that they may arrive at a position based on the knowledge they have constructed.

Consideration of Alternative Perspectives:
  • Satisfactory: absence of bias towards any one point of view
  • Good: students consider different points of view regarding issues, problems discussed
  • Very good: based on the consideration of different views, students form opinions and  take an informed position
Multiple Dimensions of Problems & Solutions Good

While the focus of the student inquiry is the controversy over climate change -is it happening and if so is it the result of human activity?-this does not preclude student discussion of the environmental, social and economic dimensions of the issue. The resource's focus on questioning should lead students and teachers to ask the question, Why is this an issue worthy of inquiry? In answering that question students will need to consider the possible economic, social and environmental implications of the debate.

Multiple Dimensions of Problems & Solutions:

Effectively addresses the environmental, economic and social dimensions of the issue(s) being explored.

  • Satisfactory: resource supports the examination of  these dimensions
  • Good:  resource explicitly examines the interplay of these dimensions
  • Very Good:  a systems-thinking approach is encouraged to examine these three dimensions
Respects Complexity Good

The purpose of the resource is to develop/strengthen student inquiry skills. The most important of those skills is helping students learn how to think. Thinking is questioning that rejects easy or facile answers to complex questions. Student inquiry into the climate change controversy is used in this resource to help students prepare carefully worded questions that will drive their inquiry.

The resource references another resource developed by the author, Thinking is Questioning, in which students develop inquiry skills by strengthening their ability to frame relevant/appropriate questions in investigating a number of selected issues. Also referenced is Thinking Critically About Internet Sources.

Respects Complexity:

The complexity of the problems/issues being discussed is respected.

Acting on Learning Satisfactory

On completion of their inquiry into the climate change controversy students are asked to report their findings to a wider audience. The resource also recognizes that the crucial nature of the climate change issue requires that students become active, socially responsible citizens on the issue.

Although no suggestions as to appropriate action are included in the resource, teachers and students are directed to a companion resource, Teaching Social Responsibility,  for suggestions about organizing a class project and examples of what active citizenship might entail.

Acting on Learning:

Learning moves from understanding  issues  to working towards positive change — in personal lifestyle, in school, in the community,  or for the planet

  • Satisfactory: action opportunities are included as extensions 
  • Good: action opportunities are core components of the resource
  • Very Good: action opportunities for students are well supported and intended to result in observable, positive change
Values Education Poor/Not considered

The degree to which the resource helps students explore their own values and those of others depends upon the questions they choose to pursue with respect to the climate change controversy.

Values Education:

Students are explicitly provided with opportunities to identify, clarify and express their own beliefs/values.

Empathy & Respect for Humans Poor/Not considered
Empathy & Respect for Humans: Empathy and respect are fostered for diverse groups of humans (including different genders, ethnic groups, sexual preferences, etc.).
Personal Affinity with Earth Poor/Not considered
Personal Affinity with Earth:

Encourages a personal affinity with -the natural world.  

  • Satisfactory: connection is made to the natural world
  • Good: fosters appreciation/concern for the natural world
  • Very Good: fosters stewardship though practical and respectful experiences out-of-doors 
Locally-Focused Learning Satisfactory

The degree to which the resource focuses on the community and the lives of the students will be determined by the direction taken by student questions as part of their inquiry into the climate change controversy. Any consideration of the significance and possible effects of climate change may be expected to include what implications this has for the students, the local and global community.

Locally-Focused Learning:

Includes learning experiences that take advantage of issues/elements within the local community. 

  • Satisfactory: learning is made relevant to the lives of the learners
  • Good: learning is made relevant and has a local focus
  • Very Good: learning is made relevant, local and takes place ‘outside’ , in the community 
Past, Present & Future Good

In exploring the climate change controversy -how serious is climate change? is climate change a high priority? if climate change is occurring to what extent are human responsible?- students will need to examine past and current climate records and possible future scenarios.

Past, Present & Future: Promotes an understanding of the past, a sense of the present, and a positive vision for the future.

Pedagogical Approaches

Principle Rating Explanation
Open-Ended Instruction Very Good

Student investigation of the climate change controversy, which is the focus of the resource, is intended to develop their questioning skills and is based upon certain assumptions.

. education helps students learn how to think

. thinking is questioning

. questions call for answering or inquiry

. inquiry is an active learning process

The purpose of the resource is therefore not to provide a set of answers but to help students construct answers to the questions they have raised.

Open-Ended Instruction :

Lessons are structured so that multiple/complex answers are possible; students are not steered toward one 'right' answer.

Integrated Learning Good

The issue- the climate change controversy- has relevance for a variety of subject areas. Students will want to investigate how "good' is the science on either side of the issue ? what are the mathematical projections as to the rate of global warming and how reliable? what economic impacts may result from a changing climate? what are the possible environmental consequence with respect to habitat and species survival? if they are to answer the questions inherent in the issue.   

Integrated Learning:

Learning brings together content and skills  from more than one  subject area

  • Satisfactory: content from a number of different  subject areas is readily identifiable
  • Good:  resource is appropriate for use in more than one subject area
  • Very Good:  the lines between subjects are blurred 
Inquiry Learning Very Good

The resource strikes a healthy balance between content and process. The climate change controversy provides the content around which to heighten student understanding of the inquiry process. Central to that process is a change in the conventional role of the teacher as an instructor and information provider to teacher as guide and coach who helps students in formulating the relevant questions and improving student skills in finding information and examining its worth and reliability. 

Inquiry Learning:

Learning is directed by questions, problems, or challenges that students work to address.   

  • Satisfactory: Students are provided with questions/problems to solve and some direction on how to arrive at solutions.
  • Good: students, assisted by the teacher clarify the question(s) to ask and the process to follow to arrive at solutions.  Sometimes referred to as Guided Inquiry
  • Very Good:  students generate the questions and assume much of the responsibility for how to solve them.  . Sometimes referred to as self-directed learning.

 

Differentiated Instruction Good

The aim of the resource is to teach a particular learning style - the skills associated with effective student inquiry. The teacher's role is to guide the students in the steps involved;

. the preparation of carefully worded questions

. the preparation of a list of sources of information they propose to use in pursuing an answer to their question

. the submission of an outline or draft of the results of their inquiry.

Differentiated Instruction:

Activities address a range of student learning styles, abilities and readiness.

  • Satisfactory:  includes a variety of instructional approaches
  • Good: addresses  the needs of visual, auditory &  kinesthetic learners
  • Very Good: also includes strategies for learners with difficulties
Experiential Learning Satisfactory

The resource requires that students investigate an issue - the climate change controversy - that is both significant and current and of considerable consequence for the students and the larger community. The issue is therefore "real" or authentic but the primary goal of the lesson is to teach skills associated with thinking and questioning that are generic in their application.

Experiential Learning:

Authentic learning experiences are provided

  • Satisfactory: learning takes place through ‘hands-on’ experience or simulation
  • Good: learning involves direct experience in a ‘real world context’
  • Very good: learning involves ‘real world experiences’ taking place’ beyond the school walls.
Cooperative Learning Satisfactory

The structure of the inquiry can be decided by students or by the teacher. Options include

. students work independently

. students choose partners, or form small groups on their own

. the teacher assigns students to small groups

Cooperative Learning:

Group and cooperative learning strategies are a priority.

  • Satisfactory:  students work in groups
  • Good: cooperative learning skills are explicitly taught and practiced
  • Very Good: cooperative learning skills are explicitly taught, practiced and assessed
Assessment & Evaluation Good

Student discussion of the readings and their classmates findings provide opportunities for formative evaluation. Student reports on their work and class presentations allow for a more summative evaluation.

A number of questions are also provided which help students discuss and reflect on what they have learned and how they have learned.

Assessment & Evaluation: Tools are provided that help students and teachers to capture formative and summative information about students' learning and performance. These tools may include reflection questions, checklists, rubrics, etc.
Peer Teaching Good

Peer teaching takes the form of student discussion of their findings with classmates and making class presentations. A companion piece, Teaching Social Responsibility, provides suggestions about organizing a class project based on their findings and what active citizenship might entail. 

Peer Teaching:

Provides opportunities for students to actively present their knowledge and skills to peers and/or act as teachers and mentors.

  • Satisfactory: incidental teaching that arises from cooperative learning, presentations, etc.
  • Good or Very Good: an opportunity is intentionally created to empower students to teach other students/community members. The audience is somehow reliant on the students' teaching (students are not simply ‘presenting')
Case Studies Very Good

The climate change controversy is used as a case study to teach the skills of inquiry. The climate change skeptics targeting of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the IPCC's response serve to introduce the inquiry. The lesson then proceeds to teach students  the inquiry skills necessary to investigate the relative merits of the claims being made by each side in the debate.

Case Studies:

Relevant case studies are included.  Case studies are thorough descriptions of real events from real situations that students use to explore  concepts in an authentic context.

Locus of Control Very Good

The lesson moves from a teacher -guided discussion that introduces the climate change controversy, the value of inquiring into the merits of the competing perspectives, the need to frame appropriate questions to guide the inquiry, and the importance of open-mindedness.

The students are responsible for determining the areas they wish to investigate and the questions they need to ask. The inquiry that follows and the reporting of findings is the responsibility of the students.

Locus of Control: Meaningful opportunities are provided for students to choose elements of program content, the medium in which they wish to work, and/or to go deeper into a chosen issue.