Our climate change learning principles are: Participation, Framing for Relevance and Local Systems Understanding.
Each is important in its own right in informal learning of climate change, but they also have overlapping features, which are found in individual, cognitive aspects
of learning, as well as the group-level, social and participatory aspects of learning. Our project
strives to incorporate these three principles into as much of the programming and materials that
Participation is a powerful mechanism for learning, and is one of the primary forms of engagement in out-of-school, informal learning (Rogoff, 1997). Participation refers to hands-on, interactive, and authentic (e.g. in-context) experiences that lead to learning, development of attitudes, and the making of personal connections. An important facet of participation is conversation. By creating a space where individuals and communities can interact with others who are more, less, and equally expert on various intersecting systems and ideas related to climate change and the issues personally relevant to their groups, individuals and communities will be equipped to learn about and find meaning in the climate change information that is available.
Open-minded discussions and critical evaluation of evidence in order to promote conceptual change at the individual level (Lombardi, 2013) and authentic engagement at the group level (Devine-Wright, 2004; McCrum, 2009). Participating in conversations builds trust among community members and between constituents and decision makers (Terwel, 2010). Conversation is an important way for participants to address and grapple with the emotional, relevant, and interconnected systems of ideas and issues that come with facing climate change as a community (Cameron, 2013; Daub, 2010; Devine-Wright, 2004; Moser, 2010; Pruneau, 2006). Learning through participation means that learners will do more than acquire new information in isolation—participation is involvement, experience, and engagement with ideas, conversations, and other learners with more, less, and equal levels of knowledge, who are also engaged in grappling with and using the knowledge and information they are building together.
Framing for Relevance
and responsibility for the issue, framing climate change education must capitalize on direct, personal, and culturally relevant experiences of the public. In its broadest sense, a frame is a social norm, which (at least while changing) can be informed by values.
Not all people have the same values or come into a conversation from the same point of view. For example, in more conservative communities, environmentally friendly behavior is much more personally relevant and satisfying when it is framed as an issue of economic or energy security, or an act of patriotism, such as buying goods made in the USA (Bain, 2012) (for more examples of varying frames and framing recommendations, see Shome and Marx, 2009).
Local Systems Understanding
Frames of relevance and processes of participation in the complex realms of climate
change adaptation and mitigation facilitate systems level understanding, just as understanding
systems will support the development and evolution of relevant frames and processes of
participation. In other words, these three principles for climate change learning work to reinforce
one another. Systems-level understanding is difficult to develop, and is not generally recognized as a strong attribute, even among highly educated adults (Houser, 2009). In order to understand
the systems involved in and affected by climate change, people need to be able to engage with
the intersections of science, society, individual passions, and unfamiliar topics.
Employing the Principles
How might designers of educational interventions in communities implement or employ these design principles? One important starting place will be to harness the energy and momentum of existing community resources and programs that already established participants. Tapping into existing networks of activism, action, and community development is likely to be among few reliable strategies for engaging communities at the group level, because such groups already have networks of social relationships and shared understanding of what is important to their community. To promote the large-scale, systems-level changes in understanding, it will be essential to acknowledge that the communities we hope to educate are in fact very knowledgeable about their own lives, needs, and surroundings. Working with and engaging communities, rather than imposing “on” them, will facilitate appropriate frames for understanding and dialogue that naturally connect to the systems people already engage with on a regular basis.
In order to understand, improve, and explain the mechanism behind this set of principles
for climate change learning, design-based research should be conducted throughout the course of
development of climate education programming (Barab, 2004),. The climate education
platforms and programs being developed by CUSP partners will engage community-members in
a variety of ways, utilizing hands-on, physical experiences, workshops, interactive social media
campaigns, or other community, neighborhood based programs that engage neighbors in
conversations that relate climate change to issues that are relevant to groups who share space,
resources, and urban living experiences.
Once the CUSP informal education platforms have been developed through design-based research, further research using the design-based implementation research framework should be conducted to understand how these programs can be transferred from their initial development setting to other cities, communities, and participants (Penuel, 2011). Researchers will ask which of these principles, or parts of these principles, are most useful in developing programming and platforms that reach the groups they are hoping to educate? During development and implementation, the underlying challenges to implementing the principles for learning will surface, so that they can be refined, revised, and ultimately made as useful as possible to future efforts in educating communities about systemic, socio-scientific challenges such as climate change.
These learning principles have been developed for a broad range of desirable future actions on the part of learners (participants), which includes: seeking more information or learning experiences about climate, and making behavioral, social, or personal choices that demonstrate concern and responsibility. Climate change influences our social, economic, industrial, food, and water systems at multiple and intersecting levels (Rosenzweig, 2011).A challenge that climate change educators and organizers have faced is the ambiguous nature of responsibility for such a multi-faceted and interconnected challenge. Many people don’t feel empowered or responsible to take action on climate, because it is perceived as a distant, global, governmental, or industry-based problem (Moser, 2010; Patchen, 2010). By participating in tangible actions (Shandas, 2008) and developing a systems level understanding of climate change, communities will enhance their collective efficacy. And, rationally, by engaging in actions similar to those around them, individuals can affect the systems they interact with regularly. Promoting systems-level understanding about these concepts will foster an understanding of how combined individual actions will influence city, state, nation, and global systems. These efforts will help people to situate their own responsibility and feel like they can make a difference as part of a broader community.
Akerlof, K., Maibach, E. W., Fitzgerald, D., Cedeno, A. Y., & Neuman, A. (2013). Do people
"personally experience" global warming, and if so how, and does it matter? Global
Bain, P. G., Hornsey, M. J., Bongiorno, R., & Jeffries, C. (2012). Promoting pro-environmental
action in climate change deniers. Nature Climate Change.
Barab, S., & Squire, K. (2004). Design-Based Research: Putting a Stake in the Ground. The
Journal of the Learning Sciences, 13(1), 1-14.
Cameron, F., Hodge, B., & Salazar, J. F. (2013). Representing climate change in museum space
and places. WIREs Climate Change, 4, 9-21.
Daub, S. J. (2010). Negotiating Sustainability: Climate Change Framing in the Communciations,
Energy and Paperworks Union. Symbolic Interaction, 33(1), 115-140. doi:
Devine-Wright, P., Devine-Wright, H., and Fleming, P. (2004). Situational influences upon
children's beliefs about global warming and energy. Environmental Education Research,
Houser, N. (2009). Ecological democracy: An environmental approach to citizenship education.
Theory and Research in Social Education, 37(2), 211-214.
Lombardi, D., Sinatra, G. M., & Nussbaum, E. M. (2013). Plausibility reappraisals and shifts in
middle school students' climate change conceptions. Learning and Instruction, 27, 50-62.
McCarthy, J. D., Smith, J., & Zald, M. N. (1996). Accessing public, media, electoral, and
governmental agendas. In D.
McAdam, McCarthy, J. D., & Zald, M. N. (Ed.), Comparative perspectives on social movements: Political opportunities, mobilizing structures, and cultural framings. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
McCrum, G., Blackstock, K., Matthews, K., Rivington, M., Miller, D., & Buchan, K. (2009). Adapting to climate change in land management: the role of deliberative workshops in enhancing social learning. Environmental Policy and Governance, 19, 413-426.
Moser, S. C. (2010). Communicating climate change: History, challenges, process and future
directions. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change, 1(1), 31-53.
Patchen, M. (2010). What shapes public reactions to climate change? Overview of reserach and
policy implications. Analyses of Social Issues and Public Policy, 10(1), 47-68.
Penuel, W. R., Fishman, B. J., Cheng, B. H., & Sabelli, N. (2011). Organizing Research and
Development at the Intersection of Learning, Implementation and Design. Educational
Researcher, 40(7), 331-337.
Pruneau, D., Doyon, A., Langis, J., Vasseur, L., Ouellet, E., McLaughlin, E., Boudreau, G., &
Martin, G. (2006). When teachers adopt environmental behaviors in the aim of protecting
the climate. The Journal of Environmental Education, 37(3), 3-12.
Rogoff, B. (1997). Evaluating development in the process of participation: Theory, methods, and
practice building on each other. In E. Amsel, & Renninger, A. (Ed.), Change and
development. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
Rosenzweig, C., Solecki, W, Hammer, S.A., & Mehrotra, S. (Ed.). (2011). Climate Change in
Cities: First Assessment Report of the Urban Climate Change Research Network.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Shandas, V., & Messer, W. B. (2008). Fostering Green Communities Through Civic Engagement. Journal of the American Planning Association, 74(4), 408-418.
Shome, D., & Marx, S. (2009). The Psychology of Climate Change Communication: Center for Research on Environmental Decisions, Columbia University.
Snow, D. A., & Benford, R. D. (1992). Master frames and cycles of protest. In C. M. Mueller, &
Morris, A. (Ed.), Frontiers in Social Movement Theory. New Haven, CT: Yale University
Terwel, B. W., Harinck,F., Ellemers, N., & Daamen, D. D. L. (2010). Voice in political decision making: The effect of group voice on perceived trustworthiness of decision makers and subsequent acceptance of decisions. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 16(2), 173-186.