Development of an Empirically-based Conditional Learning Progression for Climate Change

Wayne Breslyn, Andrea Drewes, J. Randy McGinnis, Emily Hestness, Chrystalla Mouza

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Climate change encompasses a broad and complex set of concepts that is often challenging for students and educators. Using a learning progressions conceptual framework, we develop a description of student learning of climate change based on our research findings and an extensive review of the science education research literature. In this exploratory study we present findings from written assessments (N=294) and in-depth interviews (n=27) with middle school students in which we examine their understanding of the role of human activity, mechanism, impacts, and adaptation and mitigation of climate change. Findings, along with evidence from the science education research literature, are synthesized into a first step empirically supported learning progression describing a path from an initial to a developed understanding of climate change. The empirically supported learning progression contributes to the climate change education research literature and provides the education community with a robust description of how student understanding of climate change advances over time.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)214-223
JournalScience Education International
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • climate change
  • education
  • learning progressions
  • environmental education


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