Department of Teaching, Learning and Teacher Education


Date of this Version



Published in EARTH: The Science Behind the Headlines, February 2017. American Geosciences Institute © 2017. Used by permission.


A recent survey of U.S. science teachers’ understanding, perspectives and teaching of climate change — an important earth and space science (ESS) standard included in the new Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) — revealed that teachers spend an average of only one to two hours per year teaching students about climate change. The survey study’s authors concluded that “[science] teachers may not be very knowledgeable about a wide range of evidence and how climate models work.” However, the authors did not distinguish between qualified ESS teachers and other teachers, like biology, physics or chemistry teachers who might be charged with teaching ESS topics. Other studies also noted that some teachers with biology degrees self-report not feeling prepared to teach climate change. These, and other similar results, suggest that many secondary teachers currently teaching climate change do not have sufficient content knowledge to teach the topic accurately, although they do not explain why teachers are teaching ESS out-of-field, or how we might improve the situation. Without a grounded understanding of how educational systems function, we cannot advance practical solutions to improve science education.