Can Science Education Help to Reduce Global Warming? An International Study of the Links between Students’ Beliefs and their Willingness to Act

By Manuel Rodríguez, Eddie Boyes, Martin Stanisstreet, Keith Skamp, Georgios Malandrakis, Rosanne Fortner, Ahmet Kilinc, Neil Taylor, Kiran Chhokar, Shweta Dua, Abdullah Ambusaidi, I. Poh-Ai Cheong, Hye-Gyoung Yoon and Mijung Kim.

Published by The International Journal of Science in Society

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In this period of environmental degradation it is essential to assist people to change their attitudes, motives, skills and behaviors towards more sustainable ones. Education is one of the tools that might be expected to contribute towards achieving that goal. Unfortunately, however, few educational programs have had substantial impacts on people’s actions for environment involvement (Jakobsson, Mäkitalo, and Säljö, 2009). One of the factors that underlie the ‘gap’ between knowledge and action (Kollmus and Ageyman, 2002) seems to be the disparity between general pro-environmental attitudes and values, and the specific motives and intentions needed to undertake the actions. So, in our research program we have examined links between beliefs about the usefulness of specific actions and the willingness to undertake those concrete actions. Questionnaires were completed by 12,627 school students in 11 countries, including Spain. Here we concentrate on students’ views about modifying their methods of personal transport to reduce global warming. The relationships between students’ Believed Usefulness of Action and their Degree of Willingness to Act were quantified by constructing indices to measure the extent to which enhancing a person’s belief in the effectiveness of an action might increase their willingness to undertake it. Comparison of the values of this index for different actions and across different countries identifies those actions for which education is likely to produce behavior change.

Keywords: Cultural Differences, Environmental Action, Environmental Education, Global Warming

The International Journal of Science in Society, Volume 2, Issue 3, pp.89-100. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 810.269KB).

Dr. Manuel Rodríguez

University Lecturer, Developmental and Educational Psychology, UNED, Madrid, Spain

In 2004 I began my PhD studying how pupils of different ages conceptualise Sustainable Development, that is to say, how they understand pollution, shortage of resources, electricity production and consumption and wasted managed. One of the aims of the research was to analyse how they established relationship between the knowledge that belong to two different domains: the social-economic and the chemist-physical. In 2006 I carried out a research stay in Liverpool in order to collaborate with Doctors Stanisstreet and Boyes. We began a passionate detour on scientific education. Now we are concluding a cross-country project where we are interested in define some elements that can help us to circumvent the ‘gap’ between knowledge instruction and pro-environmental actions.

Dr. Eddie Boyes

University of Liverpool, Liverpool, England, UK

Dr. Eddie Boyes has taught at most levels in science education, including the training of Physics teachers. On Masters programmes, he has taught options on Assessment, Misconceptions in Science, and Statistics in Educational Research. He publishes widely in the Educational research journals. He has been involved in the data acquisition and analysis of a number of national research projects, including an early evaluation of the implementation of the UK National Curriculum. More recent work has been concerned with analysing the performance of items which were trialled for National Curriculum Science Assessment in England and Wales.

Dr. Martin Stanisstreet

Senior Lecturer, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, England, UK

Dr. Martin Stanisstreet has a BSc (Hons) (1968) in Zoology from the University of Southampton and a PhD (1972) in Developmental Biology from the University of Bristol. He is now a senior lecturer at the University of Liverpool. Dr Stanisstreet has considerable teaching experience at the undergraduate level, including supervision of Level 3 undergraduate research projects, and he has supervised postgraduate students. For the first part of his professional research career he undertook biological research, but he then developed an interest in education research, partly through a series of collaborations with Dr Eddie Boyes. Dr Stanisstreet’s current research interests include public preconceptions and misconceptions about major environmental issues, and students’ attitudes to school science. Some time ago Dr Boyes and Dr Stanisstreet founded the University of Liverpool Environmental Education Research Unit.

Adj.Prof. Keith Skamp


Dr. Georgios Malandrakis

University of Western Macedonia, Greece

Dr. Rosanne Fortner

The Ohio State University, USA

Dr. Ahmet Kilinc

Ahi Evran University, Turkey

Dr. Neil Taylor

University of New England, Australia

Kiran Chhokar

Centre for Environment Education, India

Shweta Dua


Dr. Abdullah Ambusaidi

Sultan Qaboos University, Oman

Dr. I. Poh-Ai Cheong

Universiti Brunei Darussalam, Brunei Darussalam

Hye-Gyoung Yoon

Associate professor, Dept. of Science education, Chuncheon National University of Education, Chuncheon, Gangwon-do, South Korea

Mijung Kim

University of Victoria, Canada