Initial analysis of 2011 survey results from 766 K-12 teachers shows them thinking climate change is occurring, and primarily as result of human activities, with notable regional differences in understanding.
An online sampling of K-12 earth science teachers suggests they are “more representative of the scientific consensus than adults and teens” generally.
Results from the 2011 survey by the National Earth Science Teachers Association are based on 1,909 responses, 1,235 from current educators and 766 of those from K-12 teachers. Eighty-nine percent of the respondents “indicated that they believe global warming is happening,” according to the group’s executive summary of the findings, with 6 percent saying warming is not happening. About 13 percent of those respondents said climate change is caused “mainly” by natural causes.
Respondents from the West and Northeast expressed more concern about global warming than those from southern states, the survey results indicate.
Asked their sources of climate change information, most pointed to materials available from professional societies, federal agencies, and universities. Others pointed to materials from non-profit and for-profit interests.
Respondents expressed “strong preference” for local professional development opportunities and for participating in climate research with local university scientists or research labs. Ninety-six percent said they embed lessons on climate change in other courses, usually those dealing with earth sciences or geology. About half said they “note an increase in positive attitudes about the teaching of climate science in their school,” with 27 percent reporting no change in attitudes and 12 percent reporting “an increase in negative attitudes.” One-quarter to one-third said they have encountered concerns raised by parents, administrators, or community residents that climate change is not occurring or is not the result of human activities.
More than one-third of the respondents say they have been directly or indirectly influenced “to teach ‘both sides’ of climate change,” an experience again more common in the South than in the West or Northeast. “Survey comments indicate that a significant number of teachers believe that if they teach both sides, students will be able to make their own decisions about what to believe,” according to the association’s executive summary on the survey. The group said it expects to soon post a complete analysis of its survey results at its website.