Climate Change and Energy Technologies in Introductory Biology, Chemistry, and Physics Textbooks

Authors: 

Rachel Yoho

Of pressing global importance, climate change and energy technologies are hot-button issues in politics, the media, and science research. In order to function as productive and informed citizens, these topics demand a broad understanding of transdisciplinary ideas. Often overlooked are the methods and educational materials for teaching climate change and energy technologies in introductory-level undergraduate education. Reaching the greatest audiences, these courses often form the only educational foundation in science that may be drawn upon in everyday life.

This research utilized a ground-up approach to investigating the inclusion of climate change and energy technologies in introductory-level biology, chemistry, and physics textbooks. The results indicate a large variation within each discipline. Overall, these research topics are presented on average on less than 4% of pages. The results of the textbook analysis reveal the presence and emphasis placed on the individual renewable energy technologies, fossil fuel energy, and climate change/global warming in introductory-level university education. The variation among individual books in each subject indicates the particular inclinations of the textbook authors.

As textbooks are often perceived to be an authoritative source of information in the classroom, textbooks have the opportunity to illustrate key concepts or perpetuate misconceptions. Considering the importance of these topics and influence of the individual on societal decisions, this research indicates an opportunity for optimizing presentation in educational materials in order to improve social awareness and understanding of key socioscientific issues in the future.

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Submitted by Rachel Yoho on