How Does Group Inquiry Work with an Authentic Scientific Instrument Alter Climate Science Learning

Monday 3:00pm Northrop Hall: 116


Drew Bush, McGill University
Renee Sieber, McGill University
Gale Seiler, Iowa State University
Mark Chandler, Auburn University Main Campus
Myriad science education technologies have been developed to allow students to visualize, model or interact with otherwise abstract, global Earth system processes. Still others have utilized digital communications, data and audio/video technologies to enhance student inquiry into subjects such as anthropogenic global climate change (AGCC). The goal of this study was to show how differing science education technologies succeed and fail at getting students to evolve in their understanding of AGCC. Conducted in Montreal, QC with 79 students, we compared the educational use of a scientific technology, a National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) global climate model (GCM), to software recommended by the American Association of Geographers that included simpler interfaces and processes. Many science education technologies aim to convey key AGCC concepts, Earth systems processes or possible mitigation scenarios; the Columbia University-NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies Educational Global Climate Model (EdGCM) aims to teach students the methods and processes of global climate modeling. These distinct goals affected how students in two independent, seven-week courses perceived the technology with which they worked, engaged with course materials and evolved in their learning. To determine student perceptions, engagement and learning trajectories, we analyzed pre/post questionnaires and diagnostic exams, exit interviews, 535 minutes of classroom video footage, three practice quizzes and 253 student written reflections. Results indicated a GCM-based course posed unique technological and scientific challenges for both instructors and students. It also better engaged students in research and gave them clearer AGCC understandings. Students using simpler technologies never fully understood AGCC research and demonstrated learning trajectories with smaller gains.