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Undergraduate Beliefs about the Greenhouse Effect

Wednesday, November 29, 2006
Keller (Lunar and Planetary Lab, University of Arizona)

Using written surveys and student interviews, an educational concept inventory has been created to assess pre- and post-instruction beliefs and ideas about the greenhouse effect among undergraduates. The instructional tool focuses on the physics of energy flow through Earth's atmosphere rather than recent enhancement of greenhouse gases. Three versions of this multiple-choice survey instrument were administered to over 2500 undergraduate students as part of the development and validation process. A majority of students believe that the Sun radiates most of its energy as ultraviolet light, a misconception associated with beliefs that the greenhouse effect is caused by ozone depletion. Students also describe inaccurate and incomplete trapping models, which include permanent trapping, trapping through reflection, and trapping of gases and pollution. The Greenhouse Effect Concept Inventory is a research tool based upon known student beliefs and reasoning difficulties that can be used to assess the impact of instruction on student understanding of the greenhouse effect.

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