Visualizing the Greenhouse Effect: Restructuring Mental Models of Climate Change Through a Guided Online Simulation
1.1. Challenges of Learning Climate Change
1.2. Current Pedagogical Approaches to the Greenhouse Effect
1.3. Our Approach: Visualizations to Support Mental Models
1.4. Theoretical Framework
1.4.1. Mental Models and Visualizations
1.4.2. Limitations of Mental Models
1.5. Misconceptions and Conceptual Change
1.7. Research Questions
- Would participants’ models of the greenhouse effect change as a result of engaging with an interactive visualization?
- If so, how does this conceptual change process occur? What role did participants’ perceptual inferences of a visualization play in their conceptual change process?
2. Materials and Methods
2.1. Design Based Research
2.3. The Intervention
2.3.1. The Simulation
2.3.2. Instructional Video
2.3.3. Interview Protocol and Rationale
2.3.4. Data Collection
3.1. Pre-Post Comparisons
3.2. Case Study
3.2.1. Daniel’s Persistent Misconception
- I don’t know a whole lot about it. I just know that pollutants in the air kind of erupt, I don’t think it’s the right word but break down the ozone layer that covers our atmosphere and protects us from the harmful rays of the sun being too much. The more that that breaks down, the sun’s able to just, the planet is overheating from the energy from the sun that is able to pass through the atmosphere more clearly without having that protective layer that sustains life on the earth. The more that that breaks down and our planet overheats, eventually over time it could be not sustainable to life.
- Okay, what do you see?
- UV rays from the sun are coming down hitting the ground, exciting the ground and making it warmer…The more that keeps happening, the more kinetic energy, the more excited the particles are and then the hotter the ground gets and the temperature rises.
- Sunlight is traveling in waves to the ground, exciting the particles on the ground, which is causing them to have an increase in kinetic energy and give off heat as a result, so the temperature of the ground and the earth is rising.
3.2.2. Perceptual Inferences Become Causal Rules
- You said that you noticed that the infrared was interacting with the CO2 this time?
- Actually, no. I changed my mind. I don’t think the infrared is interacting with the CO2. [pause] Actually, maybe it is. [pause] I think when the infrared rays are passing through [the CO2] it’s exciting them somehow, so yeah I guess it is interacting with them. I don’t know if it’s necessarily interacting with them or if it’s just the presence of the infrared rays is causing the CO2 molecules to move quickly but they’re interacting with each other, not with the infrared, if that makes sense. It’s like having it in the atmosphere is causing them to interact with each other.
- [Prompts Daniel to put the visualization in slow motion and attend to the “glowing” of CO2] What do you notice this time?
- When they’re glowing, they’re sucking up the infrared rays. When they’re not glowing they’re exerting the infrared rays.
3.2.3. Synthesis of Causal Rules
- I think that sunlight will travel down in rays, hit the ground, excite the ground, the ground will release infrared into the atmosphere. The infrared will be absorbed by the CO2 molecules, exciting the CO2 molecules, causing there to be more kinetic energy in the atmosphere which rises the temperature. As these CO2 molecules absorb the infrared lights and get more energy, they’ll then release them back aimlessly in different directions. Yeah.
- I was just like, “Oh, the ozone layer is breaking down, thus the sun has more of an impact on the earth.” I don’t know, that’s not necessarily the case. It is but it’s more so the methane, carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases in the atmosphere that are interacting with infrared that are causing the actual increase in temperature, which scientifically and physically makes sense.
4.2. Implications for Classroom Instruction
4.2.1. Elicit Predictions and Explanations
4.2.2. Scaffold Instruction
4.2.3. Ground Instruction in Visual Details
4.2.4. Scaling Up
4.3. Implications for Research
Conflicts of Interest
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% (N = 20)
% (N = 20)
|Significance Test for Difference in Proportion|
|Ozone Depletion or Ultraviolet Light *||45%||10%||6.0 (.014)|
|Visible Smog or Pollution *||30%||0%||6.9 (.009)|
|Other Greenhouse Gasses||40%||70%||4.8 (.027)|
|Increases in Temperature||70%||80%||0.5 (.471)|
|Human Involvement||50%||25%||2.6 (.107)|
|Heat “Trapped” in Atmosphere||50%||80%||3.9 (.050)|
|Infrared Radiation||0%||100%||39 (<.001)|
|Sunlight is Transformed to Infrared||0%||85%||29 (<.001)|
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Thacker, I.; Sinatra, G.M. Visualizing the Greenhouse Effect: Restructuring Mental Models of Climate Change Through a Guided Online Simulation. Educ. Sci. 2019, 9, 14. https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci9010014
Thacker I, Sinatra GM. Visualizing the Greenhouse Effect: Restructuring Mental Models of Climate Change Through a Guided Online Simulation. Education Sciences. 2019; 9(1):14. https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci9010014Chicago/Turabian Style
Thacker, Ian, and Gale M. Sinatra. 2019. "Visualizing the Greenhouse Effect: Restructuring Mental Models of Climate Change Through a Guided Online Simulation" Education Sciences 9, no. 1: 14. https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci9010014