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Research & Teaching

Using Fiction and Nonfiction Readings in Climate Change Education

Journal of College Science Teaching—Fall 2023 (Volume 52, Issue 7)

By Alison Singer, Caitlin Kirby, and Eleanor Rappolee

Facts about climate change are often ineffective in impacting people’s climate change beliefs or environmentally related behaviors. Multiple theories of environmental behavior use norms to foster behavior change. Science fiction writers may also attempt to sway individuals’ perceptions of climate change through imaginings of a future affected by climate change. The impact of these fictional narratives on individuals’ climate change perceptions and related behaviors has not been widely studied. We examined the impact of (i) personal versus social norms and (ii) fiction versus nonfiction climate change readings on undergraduate students’ climate change perceptions and behaviors. On average, students’ climate change beliefs, risk perceptions, and behavioral intentions increased across all intervention groups. Comparing fiction with nonfiction, personal with social norms, and interaction effects revealed no significant difference between changes in students’ behavioral intentions. However, trends in this exploratory research suggest that social norms and fiction writings are worth exploring as particularly effective ways to engage students in climate change discussions. These results reveal the potential for fictional narratives and social norms to encourage impactful discussion around climate change.

Climate Change Literacy Research Teaching Strategies

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