Successful Dissertation Defense


Drew Bush successfully defended his dissertation on climate change and education. Congratulations, Dr. Bush!


Student Climate Change Education: The Role of Scientific Technologies in Improving Public Geoscience Understandings

Abstract: In North America, segments of the public misunderstand the physical science of anthropogenic global climate change (AGCC) and its connection to human society. Individuals have been shown to filter their scientific understandings through identification with specific worldviews, ecological paradigms, geographic identities or political leanings. To overcome this problem, prominent scientists and the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) have called for curricula and instructional approaches that emphasize learning about climate research using climate models. Using the techniques of educational research, this study presents unique empirical findings on how geoscientists can employ innovate instructional approaches and science education technologies to overcome sociocultural barriers and improve public understanding of AGCC.

The chapters of this dissertation present detailed analysis and statistically significant results on the educational impact of students learning to run a National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) global climate model (GCM). Through a series of case studies, this study explored how a key technology of climate science—a GCM—impacted student learning compared to ubiquitous simple climate education technologies. The central hypothesis was that student use of the actual research methods and technologies of climate scientists will better improve AGCC understanding. This study utilized a pre/post, control/treatment experimental design that allowed for comparison between instructional strategies and climate education technologies used by two groups of students. To operationalize this work, it employed research instruments such as pre/post diagnostic exams, performance-based assessments, pre/post questionnaires and 536-minutes of classroom video recordings. It also utilized quantitative statistical analysis to determine the significance of differences and establish what educational and sociocultural factors impacted individual student learning gains across the whole sample. Findings from this work have shown that more students succeed at understanding AGCC when exposed to inquiry research processes using scientific technologies such as GCMs. In contrast, those who learned about GCMs through lecture only showed improvement in their recall of facts tested by multiple-choice questions. Individual students’ ecological paradigms and relationships to natural places also best predicted engagement (represented by class attendance) with course materials and larger learning gains.

Biography: A guest scientist at the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York, NY, Drew Bush is working to complete his McGill University doctoral dissertation in the Department of Geography and School of Environment. Working with Renee Sieber, his research examines how inquiry-based teaching using a classroom adapted NASA-GISS global climate model (GCM) impacts student learning of climate change science. He first began thinking about how to most effectively teach and communicate on this issue while working on United States climate and energy policy in the Washington, DC headquarters of The Wilderness Society. His subsequent master’s work at Duke University examined public perceptions of the impacts of offshore wind energy and was recognized through a Woodrow Wilson Foundation Doris Duke Conservation Fellowship. At McGill University, Drew has run graduate workshops on how to give effective presentations and teach science as a fellow with the Tomlinson Project in University-Level Science Education, founded and directed the “Be A Climate Modeler For A Week” summer camp, and conducted educational research at John Abbott College. His dissertation work was supported by a Richard H. Tomlinson Fellowship in University Science Teaching and one chapter was recently awarded the Student Paper of the Year Award by the Association of Environmental Studies and Sciences. In New York, NY, Drew instructs environmental studies students at New York University (NYU) and, this summer, is teaching at the Wallkill Correctional Facility as part of NYU’s Prison Education Program.