8.3 Assessment of Climate Literacy within a Massive Open Online Course based on Information Disseminated by Mass Media

Wednesday, 13 January 2016: 2:00 PM
Room 333-334 ( New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center)
Zachary Handlos, Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, IL; and M. Mooney, S. Ackerman, and D. Brossard

With global climate change being one of the most significant societal issues in the twenty-first century, it is important to help educate and increase awareness within the general public about climate change. One component that plays a role in this is improving climate literacy of the general public. While extensive research has investigated general public scientific literacy, it is only recently that researchers have begun to quantify public climate literacy.

While many earlier studies on general science literacy utilize assessments that include questions and content derived from experts within various scientific fields, more recent research has suggested that science literacy assessments should measure literacy with respect to science content most frequently portrayed in mass media, as this is the primary source of scientific information for the general public. We consider this latter approach in developing and pilot testing a climate literacy assessment designed to measure climate literacy relative to content developed both from academic sources as well as based on information extracted from mass media.

We construct ``media-based'' climate literacy questions using content extracted via a search of climate science vocabulary we select from a variety of climate science resources. From this, and considering only items that appear most frequently from our search, we construct a climate literacy assessment that we pilot test within a Massive Open Online Course titled, “Changing Weather and Climate in the Great Lakes Region” during the Spring 2015 semester at the University of Wisconsin - Madison. Our assessment includes a combination of questions derived from academic experts as well as from our online search. We find that participants on average score higher on the ``media-based'' questions compared to the academic-based questions. Also, participants express more confidence in the media-based questions by selecting ``Not Sure'' less frequently in the media-based portion of the assessment. Since this is a pilot study, we discuss future work that can be done to improve upon limitations to this study as well as utilize our assessment in other contexts.

- Indicates paper has been withdrawn from meeting
- Indicates an Award Winner