Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department

Curriculum and Instruction

Major Professor

Allan Feldman, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Ping Wang, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Jeni Davis, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Leia Cain, Ph.D.


Climate Change Education, Student Outcomes, Neutrality, Classroom Practices


Climate change science is complex and controversial in nature, yet seen by educators and policy makers as an important topic to be taught within secondary science education. This is becoming increasingly evident with the inclusion of climate change into the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) for Earth and Space Sciences as well as Life Science courses (NGSS, 2013). An overwhelming amount of information is available to students; however, it is often misrepresented, politically inflated and falsified, and littered with misconceptions (Dawson & Carson, 2014; Gayford, 2002). It is critical to engage students in discourse that challenges them ethically in order for students to become more informed citizens, be able to develop skills necessary to take part in democratic discourse, and cultivate resolution (Gore, 1999; Lockwood & Harris, 1985; Reitano, Kivunja, & Porter, 2008)

Teacher’s personal beliefs about the instruction of climate change within science education are unclear (Gayford, 2002). The presence of controversy can influence teachers’ instructional decisions and cause confusion about the science of climate change and many teachers may fear objection from community members (Maibach, Roser-Renouf, & Leiserowitz, 2008). Therefore, we must consider the role of teachers’ beliefs when examining their classroom instruction (Kagan, 1992; Nespor, 1987).

This research study examines the complex nature of science teacher beliefs about climate change, their instructional practice in the marine science classroom, and the impacts on student outcomes. The study takes place within four marine science classrooms over the course of one semester. The teachers taking part in the study and their respective students are representative participants of the greater school district.

The purpose of this study was to better understand teachers’ understandings and beliefs about climate change, and how individuals feel their beliefs impact instructional practices. Teacher and student data were collected from classroom observations, surveys, interviews, and a comprehensive midterm exam of the content. The qualitative and quantitative data collected were analyzed and compared through a fully mixed methods approach by which the findings of both types of data were compared and contrasted to triangulate findings.

Findings from the study suggest teachers have strong beliefs about the causes and implications of climate change, they have high levels of concern for the impacts it will have on future generations, and value the topic as a necessary component of science education. However, this study revealed the controversial nature of the topic, current political climate, and potential resistance from stakeholders inhibited teachers from espousing these beliefs within their instruction of the curriculum. Results from the study found teachers’ personal beliefs had essentially no impacts on their classroom instruction or resulting student outcomes