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Middle school students' conceptual change in global climate change: Using argumentation to foster knowledge construction

ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, 2011
Dissertation
Author: Barry W Golden
Abstract:
This research examined middle school student conceptions about global climate change (GCC) and the change these conceptions undergo during an argument driven instructional unit. The theoretical framework invoked for this study is the framework theory of conceptual change (Vosniadou, 2007a). This theory posits that students do not simply correct incorrect ideas with correct ones, but instead weigh incoming ideas against already existing explanatory frameworks, which have likely served the learner well to this point. The research questions were as follows: (1) What are the patterns of students' conceptual change in GCC? (a) What conceptions are invoked in student learning in this arena? (b) What conceptions are most influential? (c) What are the extra-rational factors influencing conceptual change in GCC? This research took place in an urban public school in a medium sized city in the southeastern United States. A sixth grade science teacher at Central Middle school, Ms. Octane, taught a course titled "Research Methods I., which was an elective science course that students took as part of a science magnet program. A unit was designed for 6th grade instruction that incorporated an Argument-Driven Inquiry (ADI) approach, centered on the subject matter of Global Climate change and Global Warming. Students were immersed in three separate lessons within the unit, each of which featured an emphasis upon creating scientific explanations based upon evidence. Additionally, each of the lessons placed a premium on students working towards the development of such explanations as a part of a group, with an emphasis on peer review of the robustness of the explanations proposed. The students were involved in approximately a two week unit emphasizing global climate change. This unit was based on an argumentation model that provided data to students and asked them to develop explanations that accounted for the data. The students then underwent a peer-review process to determine if their explanations could be modified to better account for the data as pointed out by peers. As the students experienced the three lessons comprising the unit, data were taken of various modes, including pre-unit, mid-unit, post-unit, and delayed-post unit interviews, observer notes from the classroom, and artifacts created by the students as individuals and as members of a group. At the end of the unit, a written post-assessment was administered, and post-interviews were conducted with the selected students. These varied data sources were analyzed in order to develop themes corresponding to their frameworks of climate change. Negative cases were sought in order to test developing themes. Themes that emerged from the data were triangulated across the various data sources in order to ensure quality and rigor. These themes were then used to construct understandings of various students' frameworks of the content. Several findings emerged from this research. The first finding is that each student underwent some conceptual change regarding GCC, although of varying natures. The students' synthetic frameworks of GCC were more complex than their initial, or naïve frameworks. Some characteristics of the naïve frameworks included that the students tended to conflate climate change with a broader, generic category of environmental things. Examples of this conflation include the idea that climate change entails general pollution, litter, and needless killing of dolphins while fishing for tuna. This research suggests that students might benefit from explicit attention to this concept in terms of an ontological category, with the ideal synthetic view realizing that GCC is itself an example of an emergent process. Another characteristic of their naïve frameworks includes some surprisingly accurate notions of GCC, including a general sense that temperatures and sea levels are rising. At the same time, none of the students were able to adequately invoke data to support their understandings of GCC. Instead, when data were invoked, students tended to include anecdotal information. Students' synthetic frameworks showed great improvements in these and other aspects. Each student without exception made great strides in reference to data invoked to explain his or her position. The data analyzed show evidence of epistemic scaffolding in that the students' poor ability to invoke evidence was improved through the experience in the argumentation unit. This research also suggests that each student's learning was greatly impacted by his or her own affective tendencies and understandings. Darko provided an example of this called belief identification (Cederblom, 1989), in that he stated that his anti-global warming beliefs are the same as those of his family. Other affective factors of note included self-efficacy and fascination with animals. While each student's understanding of GCC grew substantially, an explanation of their growth was offered with reference to four major categories: Ontological, Epistemological, Analytical, and Affective. In order to understand any one student's conceptual change, a thorough accounting of each of these factors needs to be examined. This research described the interaction of these factors for these students.

TABLE OF CONTENTS Contents Acknowledgements ................................................................................................ ........................ iv

table of contents ................................................................................................ ............................. vi

List of Tables ................................................................................................ .................................. x

List of Figures ................................................................................................ ................................ xi

Abstract ................................................................ ......................................................................... xii

Chapter One ................................................................ .................................................................... 1

INTRODUCTION ................................................................................................ .......................... 1

Statement of Problem and Research Questions .......................................................................... 3

Chapter Two................................................................ .................................................................... 5

REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE ................................................................ ................................ 5

Global Warming/Global Climate Change ................................................................................... 5

Educational Policy Concerning Global Warming or Global Climate Change ......................... 10

Reform Literature, National and State Science Frameworks and Initiatives ............................ 10

Research on learning about GCC ................................................................ .............................. 13

GCC & Greenhouse Effect................................ .................................................................... 13

GCC and the NOS ................................................................................................................. 14

Conceptual Change Theory ................................ .................................................................. 17

Argumentation................................................................................................ ....................... 27

Summary of Literature Review ................................ ................................................................. 34

Chapter Three................................................................................................ ................................ 35

METHO DS ................................................................ ................................................................... 35

Research Design................................................................................................ ........................ 36

vii

Research Setting.................................................................................................................... 36

Participants ................................................................................................ ........................... 36

Instruction ................................................................................................ ............................. 38

Data Collection ................................................................................................ ..................... 41

Data Analysis ................................................................................................ ........................ 45

Quality of Research............................................................................................................... 46

CHAPTER FOUR ................................................................................................ ......................... 48

CLASSROOM CULTURE ................................ ........................................................................... 48

The School ................................................................................................ ................................ 48

The Course and Classroom ................................ ................................................................... 49

The Teacher ................................................................................................ .......................... 50

The Class ................................................................................................ ............................... 52

The Interview Participants ................................ .................................................................... 52

The researcher’s role in the study and setting ...................................................................... 55

Summary ................................................................ ................................................................... 56

CHAPTER FIVE ................................................................................................ .......................... 58

DESCRIPTION OF CONCEPTUAL CHANGE IN CLIMATE CHANGE ................................ 58

Vosniadou‘s Framework Theory of Conceptual Change................................ .......................... 59

BEYONCE: Scientist as Qualified Truth-Teller...................................................................... 62

BONO: Scientist as Proof-Deliverers ................................................................ ....................... 79

DARKO: Scientist as Explorer ................................ ................................................................. 96

NIGELLA: Scientists as Theory-Makers................................................................................ 110

SHANIA: Scientists as Popperian Fact-Finders ..................................................................... 121

Summary of Chapter V ........................................................................................................... 137

GCC Science frameworks ................................ ................................................................... 139

viii

Epistemological trends................................ ........................................................................ 142

Analytical trends ................................................................................................................. 143

Affective trends................................................................................................ .................... 143

Summary of conceptual change ................................................................ .......................... 146

CHAPTER SIX ................................................................................................ ........................... 148

CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS .................................................................................. 148

Conceptual Change Theory ................................ ................................................................ 148

Conceptual change.............................................................................................................. 153

Climate Change Education ................................ ................................................................. 156

Implications for future research ................................................................ ......................... 161

Appendix A ................................................................ ................................................................. 162

Florida next generation sunshine state science standards addressed in this unit ........................ 162

AP PENDIX B ................................................................................................ ............................. 170

Overview of instructional unit (Using argument-driven inquiry about climate change) ............ 170

APPENDIX C ................................................................................................ ............................. 172

INTERVIEW PROTOCOL (OPEN-ENDED) ........................................................................... 172

APPENDIX E ................................................................................................ ............................. 181

LESSON: THE GREENHOUSE EFFECT ................................................................................ 181

APPENDIX F................................................................................................ .............................. 185

HISTORICAL CLIMATE LESSON ................................................................ .......................... 185

APPENDIX G ................................................................................................ ............................. 188

CAUSES OF CLIMATE CHANGE LESSON .......................................................................... 188

APPENDIX H: HUMAN SUBJECTS COMMITTEE APPROVAL MEMORANDUM ......... 192

APPENDIX I: PARENTAL CONSENT FORM ........................................................................ 194

APPENDIX J: STUDENT ASSENT FORM ............................................................................. 195

ix

References ................................................................ ................................................................... 196 Biographical Sketch ................................................................................................ .................... 210

x

LIST OF TABLES Table 1: Timing of data collection ................................................................ ................................ 42

Table 2: Argument structure for poster boards (adapted from Sampson & Gleim, 2009) ........... 44

Table 3: Timeline of research ................................ ....................................................................... 47

Table 4: Students in the research (pseudonyms) ............................ Error! Bookmark not defined.

xi

LIST OF FIGURES

Figure 1: Keeling curve .................................................................................................................. 7

Figure 2: Toulmin's argument pattern (Toulmin, 1958) ................................ ............................... 28

Figure 3: How argumentation might enable conceptual change (adapted from Sampson & Clark, 2007) ................................ ............................................................................................................. 32

Figure 4: The argument framework used in this study ................................................................. 39

Figure 5: Naive vs. scientifically accurate notions of GCC science ............................................. 60

Figure 6: Dimensions in framework for GCC science................................................................. 60

Figure 7: Interaction of factors influencing conceptual change of GCC ...................................... 62

Figure 8: Beyonce's GCC science framework before & after instruction .................................... 64

Figure 9: Beyonce's conceptual change (blue = naive; green = synthetic) ................................... 75

Figure 10: Bono's GCC science understanding ............................................................................ 83

Figure 11Bono's conceptual change (blue = naive; green = synthetic) ........................................ 95

Figure 12: Darko's GCC science understanding ........................................................................... 98

Figure 13: Darko's conceptual change ................................................................ ........................ 110

Figure 14: Nigella's GCC science understanding ....................................................................... 113

Figure 15: Nigella's conceptual change. Blue = naïve; green = synthetic .................................. 121

Figure 16: Shania's GCC science understanding ........................................................................ 124

Figure 17: Shania's conceptual change. Blue = naïve; green = synthetic .................................. 137

Figure 18: Factors affecting conceptual change about GCC ................................ ...................... 138

xii

ABSTRACT This research examined middle school student conceptions about global climate change (GCC) and the change these conceptions undergo during an argument driven instructional unit. The theoretical framework invoked for this study is the framework theory

of conceptual change (Vosniadou, 2007a). This theory posits that students do not simply correct incorrect ideas with correct ones, but instead weigh incoming ideas against already existing explanatory frameworks, which have likely served the learner well to this point. The research questions were as follows:

1. What are the patterns of students‘ conceptual change in GCC? a. What conceptions are invoked in student learning in this arena? b. What conceptions are most influential? c. What are the extra-rational factors influencing conceptual change in GCC?

This research took place in an urban public school in a medium sized city in the southeastern United States. A sixth grade science teacher at Central Middle school, Ms. Octane, taught a course titled ―Research Methods I ‖ , which was an elective science course that students took as part of a science magnet program. A unit w as

designed for 6 th

grade instruction that incorporated an Argument-Driven Inquiry (ADI) approach, centered on the subject matter of Global Climate change and Global Warming. Students were immersed in three separate lessons within the unit, each of which featured

an emphasis upon creating scientific explanations based upon evidence. Additionally, each of the lessons placed a premium on students working towards the development of such explanations as a part of a group, with an emphasis on peer review of the robustness of the explanations proposed. .

The students were involved in approximately a two week unit emphasizing globa l climate change. This unit was based on an argumentation model that provided

data to students and ask ed

them to develop explanations that account ed

for the data. The students then underwent a peer-review process to determine if their explanations could be modified to better account for the data as pointed out by peers.

xiii

As the students experienced the three lessons comprising the unit, data were taken of various modes, including pre-unit, mid-unit, post-unit, and delayed-post unit interviews, observer notes from the classroom, and artifacts created by the students as individuals and as members of a group. At the end of the unit, a written post-assessment was administered, and post-interviews were conducted with the selected students. These varied data sources were analyzed in order to develop themes corresponding to their frameworks of climate change. Negative cases were sought in order to test developing themes. Themes that emerged from the data were triangulated across the various data sources in order to ensure quality and rigor. These themes were then used to construct understandings of various students‘ frameworks of the content. Several findings emerged from this research. The first finding is that each student underwent some conceptual change regarding GCC, although of varying natures. The students‘ synthetic frameworks of GCC were more complex than their initial, or naïve frameworks. Some characteristics of the naïve frameworks included that the students tended to conflate climate change with a broader, generic category of environmental things. Examples of this conflation include the idea that climate change entails general pollution, litter, and needless killing of dolphins while fishing for tuna. This research suggests that students might benefit from explicit attention to this concept in terms of an ontological category, with the ideal synthetic view realizing that GCC is itself an example of an emergent process. Another characteristic of their naïve frameworks includes some surprisingly accurate notions of GCC, including a general sense that temperatures and sea levels are rising. At the same time, none of the students were able to adequately invoke data to support their understandings of GCC. Instead, when data were invoked, students tended to include anecdotal information. Students‘ synthetic frameworks showed great improvements in these and other aspects. Each student without exception made great strides in reference to data invoked to explain his or her position. The data analyzed show evidence of epistemic scaffolding in that the students‘ poor ability to invoke evidence was improved through the experience in the argumentation unit. This research also suggests that each student‘s learning was greatly impacted by his or her own affective tendencies and understandings. Darko provided an example of this called belief identification (Cederblom, 1989), in that he stated that his anti-global warming beliefs are

xiv

the same as those of his family. Other affective factors of note included self-efficacy and fascination with animals.

While each student‘s understanding of GCC grew substantially, an explanation of their growth was offered with reference to four major categories: Ontological, Epistemological, Analytical, and Affective. In order to understand any one student‘s conceptual change, a thorough accounting of each of these factors needs to be examined. This research described the interaction of these factors for these students.

1

CHAPTER ONE INTRODUCTION

―Be worried. Be VERY worrie d‖ , read the cover of Time

magazine in April of 2006 (April 3). There were many crises of note during that time, but the editors of Time were not warning about international terrorism or anything of that nature. Instead, they were admonishing readers to be worried about global warming. Nor was Time

the only media outlet to take such a stand. In recent years, especially since the record heat waves of 1988 (at least in the United States), the concepts of Global Warming (GW) and Global Climate Change (GCC) have received much press attention (Begley, 2007; Kluger, 2006). Although these two terms, Global Warming (GW) and Global Climate Change (GCC) are used somewhat interchangeably in the press, I will here differentiate how this research views those two terms. I concede that the first, Global Warming, refers to the current worldwide warming trend within the overall trend that is climate change in general. While some areas of the Earth may not warm, or may even cool slightly in the near future, the overall global trend seen in current data is one of warming. Recent studies point to this overall warming trend as equaling approximately .8 degrees Celsius over the course of the 20 th

century (IPCC, 2007) or about.2 degrees Celsius over the last 30 years (Hansen, Sato, Rudy, Lo, Lee, & Medina-Elizade, 2006 ). Although there may not be a ―correc t‖ te rm to choose between global warming (GW) and global climate change (GCC), this research focuses particularly on students‘ understandings of the mechanisms of global warming, which are themselves a subset of the overall trend of climate change. Therefore, both terms will continue to be used in this research. However, these terms are not used interchangeably. Global warming (GW) will refer specifically to warming mechanisms or trends within GCC, while Global Climate Change itself will refer to the broader background trend of changing climate, including both periods of warming and cooling.

The theoretical framework of GCC is drawn from many branches of science and has far- reaching implications for society on both national and international levels, including the environment, health, agriculture, population demographics, finance, and international relations cite needed. Given the need for action called for by a consensus of the scientific community and

2

the vast national and international resources that will be required to deal with this problem, it is clear that any viable long-term solution to the problems posed by GCC will be contingent upon a population of citizens with a robust understanding of the science involved and the challenges posed by the phenomenon (AAAS, 2007). To produce this informed citizenry, it is necessary to understand factors influencing student learning in this area, as this understanding is necessary to inform the development of more effective curricular approaches and materials. The emphasis on the need for a carefully crafted, empirically based set of pedagogical approaches is particularly keen given the conflicting messages about GCC that abound in the American media. There are many media ‗reports‘ challenging the ―truth‘ of GCC (Brown, 2010; Dawidoff, 2009; Michaels, 2008). Some of these reports come from scientists or scientific organizations, while others originate in popular editorial columns in widely circulated newspapers or newsmagazines. For example, the eminent physicist Freeman Dyson said “ All the fuss about global warming is grossly exaggerated” (D awidoff, 2009, p. 2). Others, such as the columnist George Will, don’t question GCC, but question the possibility that humans contribute this change (Will, 2009). In contrast, other media reports position GCC as a matter of international urgency (IPCC,

20 07; Kluger, 2006). The state of confusion in the popular media is indicative of the need for a set of clearly designed, theoretically informed guidelines to inform the teaching and learning GCC. The research presented here begins to address this

need by producing a rich, detailed account of student learning of GCC. As GCC is such a complicated field, relying upon a myriad of data sources and understandings, this research requires a framework that uses a model of learning that sufficiently captures vario us aspects of and influences on student learning. In my research I used

the framework theory

approach to conceptual change as its theoretical framework (Vosniadou, 2007 b). The framework theory , instead of positing conceptual change as a strictly rational replacement of misconceptions with more correct understandings, invokes a model of domain- specific conceptual change. This view considers the conceptions that need changing are ―the naïve, intuitive, domain-specific theories constructed on the basis of everyday experience under the influence of lay culture ‖ (Vosniadou, 2007b , p. 10). I argue that it is critical for this research to invoke a framework that highlights extra rational aspects of learning because the subject matter, GCC, is a topic about which many students are likely to form opinions about for both rational and extra-rational reasons. I hope to foster this conceptual change regarding GCC by

3

using a pedagogical approach that places students in classroom situations in which they are challenged to not only interpret standard scientific data, but also to discuss those meanings with their peers. I hope to capture not only the finished product of such socio-cultural interactions, but also to understand the actual interactions themselves. The approach that I have chosen is argumentation-based approach called Argument-Driven Inquiry (Sampson & Gleim, 2009; Sampson & Grooms, 2009), as several authors have suggested that argumentation-based pedagogy may be useful in producing conceptual change (Dole & Sinatra, 1994; Nussbaum & Sinatra, 2003) Statement of Problem and Research Questions Many have called for science education researchers to develop relevant approaches in terms of preparing students for their roles as participating citizens in a democracy (Fraser & Tobin, 1998; Hodson, 2008; Sadler, 2004). To inform an effective pedagogical approach to GCC, we must first generate a fruitful description of student conceptual change in this arena. Effective pedagogy should be structured upon an understanding of how climate change is understood and learned by students. This is the background against which the present research is situated. My research questions include an emphasis on describing students‘ conceptual change in this arena as well as describing an effective pedagogical approach to foster this change. Thus, my questions are: 1. What are the patterns of students‘ conceptual change in GCC? a. What conceptions are invoked in student learning in this arena? b. What conceptions are most influential? c.

What are the extra rational factors influencing conceptual change?

I will return to the research questions in chapter three, in which methods of research will be addressed. For now, attention must be turned to the subject of reviewing the relevant literatures. There are five sets of literature this research draws upon and will contribute to. The first set of literature is the history of the science behind global warming. Once that is unearthed, the extent to which there is or is not scientific consensus in those fields will be examined. The second set of literature is the set of educational policy and research. An examination of these fields is critical in that we need to understand policy recommendations regarding GCC. The third set of

4

literature to be examined involves climate change education. That field will be scrutinized for any relevant studies broaching upon global warming and global climate change-related issues. The fourth set of literature involves conceptual change. This will constitute the major theoretical framework for this study, so that will be dealt with in depth. Lastly, the field of argumentation will be examined, as it constituted a major portion of the methodology surrounding the actual classroom experiences being researched.

5

CHAPTER TWO REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE

In this chapter, I present salient aspects from the relevant literatures surrounding global warming science, global warming in educational policy and research, climate change education, conceptual change, and argumentation.

Global Warming/Global Climate Change

The idea that the Earth‘s climate has not always been the same started to develop in the early 19 th

century as scientists attempted to explain anomalous data such as strange assortments of boulders in Alpine valleys, and the origins of rock scouring in such places. Scientists such as Louis Agassiz and Karl Schimper developed theories suggesting that not only had there once been a period of time in which ice sheets had descended on most of Europe, but in fact that there had been several different such periods (Weart, 2003). Thereafter, many scientists devoted time and energy into seeking the causes for these historical descents into ice ages. Serbian scientist Milutin Milankovitch developed a theoretical explanation which is still thought to account, at least partially, for the historical periods of ice ages. His idea became known as Milankovitch cycles, which account for the changing conditions of Earth‘s orbit. Three factors were found to change on periods of several thousands of years: the earth‘s tilt changes from about 22 degrees to about 24.5 degrees; the Earth‘s axial precession, or rotational motion, changes on a period of about 26,000 years; and Earth‘s orbit around the sun itself changes over time to periods of greater ellipsis. These three factors combine, according to Milankovitch Theory, to account for the climatic changes due to ice ages (Weart, 2003). Milankovitch cycles now constitute a significant portion of the modern understanding of global climate change. As will be described, the theory of global climate change was derived from a more confined theory of global warming that has been a part of scientific discourse for well over a century. In the early to mid 1800‘s, scientists like Fourier and Tyndall researched the incoming and outgoing

6

energy of the earth (energy budget) and noticed that the earth‘s atmosphere was warmer than expected (Weart, 2003). In other words, the earth does not seem to radiate away enough heat to maintain its temperature, according to energy budget calculations. These scholars argued that the atmosphere retains some of the heat absorbed from the sun, because of the role of atmospheric gases. For instance, CO 2

allows in heat energy when it enters the atmosphere at particularly wavelengths. However, as that same heat energy is re-radiated, CO 2 blocks its loss to the atmosphere. This idea of allowing energy into the atmosphere, while blocking much of it from escaping, would later become known as the greenhouse effect (Weart, 2003). Building upon the works of these scientists, Svante Arrhenius set out to perform some laborious calculations regarding atmospheric temperature and levels of CO 2 . In 1896, Arrhenius concluded that doubling the then-present levels of atmospheric CO 2

would amount to an increase in temperature of 5-6 degrees Celsius. Although he also concluded that human activities such as factory production contributed mightily to the gas levels, he argued from these calculations that it was not a matter for concern because he felt that warming the Earth may be somewhat beneficial (Weart, 2003). The next significant contribution to the global warming discussion came in Britain in 1938, when Guy Callendar made the case, based on an examination of temperature and CO 2

data from the nineteenth century, that global warming was indeed happening, and that industrial CO 2

emissions were the culprit (Callendar, 1938). The oceanographer Roger Revelle complicated matters in 1957, when he published a paper claiming that the world‘s oceans would not readily absorb the CO 2 emissions from industry. This implied a greater likeliness that industrial emissions would cause global warming (Weart, 2003). Another critical advance in the science of global warming came in 1960, when Charles Keeling set out to definitively measure CO 2 amounts in various locations around the world, notably Hawaii and Antarctica. He found the baseline level of atmospheric carbon dioxide to be 315 parts per million. Keeling re-measured the CO 2 amounts every year at observatory atop the Hawaiian volcano Mauna Loa, resulting in the famous ―Keeling curve‖ (Figure 1, below). This graph illustrates that, on average, the CO 2 concentration in the Earth‘s atmosphere has risen by about 2 parts per million per year since 1960 (Weart, 2003).

7

These annual CO 2

measurements provided, for the first time, direct evidence that the chemistry of the atmosphere was in fact changing over time, in a way that could indicate climate change. Also, the Keeling Curve provided evidence that the atmospheric chemistry was changing in a way that signaled a likely increase in heat due to the greenhouse effect, and also that such an increase may be due to anthropogenic contributions, in the form of increased CO 2 output from industrialization. Keeling‘s data provided the necessary warrants to take seriously the largely theoretical work that preceded him (Weart, 2003). This connection of data and theory provided much of the motivation for the first ever International Conference on the Causes of Climate change in Boulder, Colorado, in 1965.Also in that year, the President‘s Science Advisory Committee formed a panel that addressed climate change, along with a host of other environmental issues (IPCC 2007; Weart, 2003). Over the course of the next twenty years, the accumulation of data from various sources, especially from deep ice cores, gave more evidence of past climatic changes (IPCC 2007; Weart, 2003). One thing of major concern for many in the scientific community was the implication that the Earth, in the deep past, has been susceptible to large changes in climate on relatively Figure 1 : Keeling curve

8

small time scales (100 years or less), indicating a great sensitivity of the climate to small variances in the levels of greenhouse gases (Broecker & Kunzig, 2008). One example may be an ancient ―burp‖ of greenhouse gases from the sea floor which may have caused the warming of 5- 8 degrees Celsius marking the end of the Eocene (Broecker & Kunzig, 2008). During the summer of 1988, the United States experienced an intense heat wave that saw 69 cities experience monthly mean high temperature records in June alone (Heim, 1988). During this record heat wave, global warming received an unprecedented amount of press attention, when the U.S. congress held hearings on the weather events. NASA scientist James Hansen warned that the extreme weather events that were being experienced were a result of global warming due to an enhanced greenhouse effect (IPCC, 2007; Weart , 2003). In fact, he went further, claiming that the Earth ―is warmer in 1988 than at any time in the history of instrumental measurements (Bowen, p. 22). An additional momentous event in 1988 involved the creation of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which was tasked with providing objective information about climate change, its causes, and its effects, to policy makers of all member nations (IPCC, 2007). The international body, made up of both scientists and government representatives, was charged with producing reports every 5-7 years on the current status of research on Global Climate Change. Reports were issued in 1990, 1995, 2001, and 2007, the last of which was called the IPCC‘s Fourth Assessment Report. Amongst the findings of this latest report were that: ―Warming of the climate system is unequivocal…‖ (p. 50) ―Most of the global average warming over the past 50 years is very likely due to anthropogenic GHG increases…‖ (p. 50) The assertive wording of the 4 th

IPCC report is more striking when the composition of that panel is examined. It included a diverse group of thousands of scientists and policy makers from around the globe (IPCC, 2007). Such a large and diverse body of individuals would be unlikely to resort to alarmist hyperbole. Thus, when the IPCC used language indicating that the data currently overwhelmingly support the anthropogenic global warming hypotheses (IPCC, p. 72), it should not be construed as coming from an inherently alarmist organization. It is important to note that the views expressed by the IPCC are indeed consistent with the relevant scientific literature. For example, Naomi Oreskes, professor of History and Science Studies, analyzed 928 papers published in scientific journals between 1993 and 2003. She found that

9

none of the 928 papers disagreed with what was deemed the position of scientific consensus, that the Earth is warming, on average, and that humans are very likely contributing to the warming effect (Oreskes, 1994). Indeed, scientific publications which support the view that anthropogenic climate change is ongoing are legion: Barnett, Pierce, & Schnur (2001) found that a climate model structured around anthropogenic causes of GCC accurately accounted for the observed heating in the past 45 years, and that there was less than a 5% chance that the observations would have been made without human actions. Karl and Trenberth (2003) describes that Modern climate change is dominated by human influences, which are now large enough to exceed the bounds of natural variability. The main source of global climate change is human-induced changes in atmospheric composition.

Full document contains 225 pages
Abstract: This research examined middle school student conceptions about global climate change (GCC) and the change these conceptions undergo during an argument driven instructional unit. The theoretical framework invoked for this study is the framework theory of conceptual change (Vosniadou, 2007a). This theory posits that students do not simply correct incorrect ideas with correct ones, but instead weigh incoming ideas against already existing explanatory frameworks, which have likely served the learner well to this point. The research questions were as follows: (1) What are the patterns of students' conceptual change in GCC? (a) What conceptions are invoked in student learning in this arena? (b) What conceptions are most influential? (c) What are the extra-rational factors influencing conceptual change in GCC? This research took place in an urban public school in a medium sized city in the southeastern United States. A sixth grade science teacher at Central Middle school, Ms. Octane, taught a course titled "Research Methods I., which was an elective science course that students took as part of a science magnet program. A unit was designed for 6th grade instruction that incorporated an Argument-Driven Inquiry (ADI) approach, centered on the subject matter of Global Climate change and Global Warming. Students were immersed in three separate lessons within the unit, each of which featured an emphasis upon creating scientific explanations based upon evidence. Additionally, each of the lessons placed a premium on students working towards the development of such explanations as a part of a group, with an emphasis on peer review of the robustness of the explanations proposed. The students were involved in approximately a two week unit emphasizing global climate change. This unit was based on an argumentation model that provided data to students and asked them to develop explanations that accounted for the data. The students then underwent a peer-review process to determine if their explanations could be modified to better account for the data as pointed out by peers. As the students experienced the three lessons comprising the unit, data were taken of various modes, including pre-unit, mid-unit, post-unit, and delayed-post unit interviews, observer notes from the classroom, and artifacts created by the students as individuals and as members of a group. At the end of the unit, a written post-assessment was administered, and post-interviews were conducted with the selected students. These varied data sources were analyzed in order to develop themes corresponding to their frameworks of climate change. Negative cases were sought in order to test developing themes. Themes that emerged from the data were triangulated across the various data sources in order to ensure quality and rigor. These themes were then used to construct understandings of various students' frameworks of the content. Several findings emerged from this research. The first finding is that each student underwent some conceptual change regarding GCC, although of varying natures. The students' synthetic frameworks of GCC were more complex than their initial, or naïve frameworks. Some characteristics of the naïve frameworks included that the students tended to conflate climate change with a broader, generic category of environmental things. Examples of this conflation include the idea that climate change entails general pollution, litter, and needless killing of dolphins while fishing for tuna. This research suggests that students might benefit from explicit attention to this concept in terms of an ontological category, with the ideal synthetic view realizing that GCC is itself an example of an emergent process. Another characteristic of their naïve frameworks includes some surprisingly accurate notions of GCC, including a general sense that temperatures and sea levels are rising. At the same time, none of the students were able to adequately invoke data to support their understandings of GCC. Instead, when data were invoked, students tended to include anecdotal information. Students' synthetic frameworks showed great improvements in these and other aspects. Each student without exception made great strides in reference to data invoked to explain his or her position. The data analyzed show evidence of epistemic scaffolding in that the students' poor ability to invoke evidence was improved through the experience in the argumentation unit. This research also suggests that each student's learning was greatly impacted by his or her own affective tendencies and understandings. Darko provided an example of this called belief identification (Cederblom, 1989), in that he stated that his anti-global warming beliefs are the same as those of his family. Other affective factors of note included self-efficacy and fascination with animals. While each student's understanding of GCC grew substantially, an explanation of their growth was offered with reference to four major categories: Ontological, Epistemological, Analytical, and Affective. In order to understand any one student's conceptual change, a thorough accounting of each of these factors needs to be examined. This research described the interaction of these factors for these students.