Date of Award

May 2018

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Science Teaching


Jason R. Wiles


Climate Change, College Science Teaching, Consensus Messaging, Gateway Belief Model, Nature of Science

Subject Categories



Despite near-unanimous consensus among climate scientists, the misconception of substantial scientific disagreement over the reality of human-induced global climate change persists among members of the general public. Within the research literature on climate science, there exists robust work which quantifies and reviews the scientific consensus on human-induced climate change. This study evaluated the efficacy of using such research literature as a tool for consensus messaging among undergraduates taking an introduction to biological research course at a large, private, research-intensive university in the northeastern United States. Outcomes investigated include the potential impact that reading and discussing such research literature may have had on students’ perceptions of the scientific consensus on human-induced climate change among climate scientists, students’ key beliefs about climate change, students’ support for threat-reduction actions and climate policy, and students’ confidence in their own ability to communicate to others about the degree of scientific consensus on climate change. The findings suggest that using scholarly literature as a mode of consensus messaging is effective at aligning participants’ perceptions with the actual level of scientific consensus around climate change as well as their self-reported confidence in communicating the consensus. There was also an overall increase in the degree to which participants were worried about climate change and evidence of increased acceptance of human-induced climate change after reading and discussing these articles. Additional findings include that participants overwhelmingly perceived benefits from participation in the introduction to biology course itself, which focuses on primary literature and interacting with biology research faculty about their scientific work. Participants’ self-reported benefits included improved biology content knowledge, enhanced data analysis skills, and improved ability to read and understand primary literature.


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