New Perspectives in Science Education

Edition 14

Accepted Abstracts

Inquiry Based Learning for Addressing Misconceptions on the Greenhouse Effect

Francesca Ugolini, Institute of Biometeorology - CNR (Italy)

Giacomo Tagliaferri, Institute of Biometeorology - CNR (Italy)

Antonio Raschi, Institute of Biometeorology - CNR (Italy)

David Pearlmutter, Ben Gurion University, Sede Boqer (Israel)

Lina Marrazzo, Sensale High School (Italy)

Vincenza Somma, Sensale High School (Italy)

Raffaele Annarumma, Sensale Hgh School (Italy)

Mariella Mazza, Sensale High School (Italy)

Maddalena Macario, Copernico High School (Italy)


Studies have shown that students commonly have misconceptions about the ‘greenhouse effect’. Many times they associate it with ozone depletion, or do not know to distinguish between natural and man-made atmospheric effects. One of the reasons for such misconceptions is that traditional teaching approaches often impart facts without a sufficient focus on context. In contrast, Inquiry-Based Learning (IBL) promotes the acquisition of independent inquiry skills and deep conceptual understanding. Utilizing this approach to help students develop a fuller understanding of the greenhouse effect, IBIMET-CNR developed an IBL unit within the MISStoHIT project (Erasmus+, 2015-2017). The unit is interdisciplinary (involving science, chemistry and math) and was tested by 150 students, whose attitudes toward the pilot testing were subsequently assessed. In the lab, students received materials: thermometers, lamps, and jars with different gas compositions (dry and moist air, carbon dioxide and helium, as well as a vacuum), and were asked to set up an experiment explaining the connection between gas, radiation and the greenhouse effect. Organised in work groups, students arranged the materials and made decisions together about the methodology, which mainly focused on recording the temperature change of the gas mixtures with and without exposure to light. Discussion both within and between groups identified the external variables affecting the success of the experiment (e.g. distance from and type of lamp), improving their critical thinking, problem solving capacity and decision-making skills. They produced graphs, compared the different groups’ results and explained their observations, showing how greenhouse gases (GHGs) trap heat compared to mixtures with little or no GHG content. Reflecting on the results, they better understood that while GHGs at natural levels are needed, higher concentrations resulting from human activity are responsible for global warming and disruptive climate change. The survey examining students’ engagement showed that they felt a significant challenge in carrying out the experiment, were engaged in the activity, and had no difficulty concentrating on the task at hand. In addition, they affirmed that the activities ran smoothly, that they understood the requirements and that they were confident in their abilities. 

Keywords: Attitude in science activities, GHGs, inquiry based learning, problem solving, survey;


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