First Advisor

Weinrich, Melissa

First Committee Member

Apawu, Aaron

Second Committee Member

Shellito, Lucinda

Third Committee Member

Holt, Emily

Document Type


Date Created



Education plays an important role in preparing current and future generations for the challenges ahead caused by climate change. The purpose of this dissertation was to examine the educational influence textbooks and undergraduate instructors have on their students. Three studies were carried out to explore these influences on climate change instruction. The first study looked at the extent, type, and location of climate change topics across 24 undergraduate general chemistry textbooks. Gas chemistry concepts were the most prevalent topic connected to climate change. However, the distribution of climate change related material varied considerably across books. The majority of climate change content was within peripheral regions of the textbook and not in the main text. The second study was comprised of a series of 16 interviews of post-secondary chemistry instructors evaluating their perspectives on climate change content in their teaching. Most of the interview participants discussed the importance of climate change to them personally, but the extent of including climate change topics in their teaching varied. Climate change concepts were best connected in their instruction by using real-world examples. Instructors who taught the same course frequently, had the ability to make changes to the material, and had some previous knowledge about the science of climate change, and spoke about being successful in including climate change topics in their courses. Some of the restrictions instructors faced to adding climate change into their courses included inadequate time to make changes, a desire to avoid any political implications, not enough knowledge about the science of climate change, a lack of educational materials (such as textbooks, workbooks, and other activities), and limitations to course design. The use of an incremental approach to adding climate change topics was discussed as a pragmatic approach for improving teaching climate change in their courses. An interdisciplinary strategy was also highly encouraged to institute effective change schoolwide. The third study built upon the results of the interview study to develop a national survey to examine the perspectives of chemistry instructors nationwide. Chemistry instructors at 259 postsecondary institutions were contacted resulting in a total response rate of 417 participants. Like the interview study, the majority of instructors rated climate change as a highly valued topic; however, the majority of respondents either taught climate change peripherally or not at all. They also mentioned time constraints as the largest reasons for their courses lacking climate change inclusion. Instructors who taught climate change in multiple ways cited agency over their course content and interest from their students as important influences over their decision-making. Gas chemistry, as reflected in the textbook study, was the most common topic area for inclusion. Tenure status, teaching experience, academic roles, and year of first appointment were not influences on the level of climate change inclusion. The development of accessible and integrable materials is needed to bridge the divide between time-constrained instructors and their ability to incorporate climate change materials into their undergraduate chemistry courses.

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164 pages

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