ProBiKlima - Research and Junior Research Group on Climate Change Education

To develop effective measures to improve climate change education (CCE), it is essential to determine the current state of affairs: How well do young people know about climate change? Do they have sufficient basic knowledge of the climate system to understand climate change and its consequences? Can they handle information on scientific findings, draw conclusions from it and distinguish facts from expressions of opinion?
In the ProBiKlima project, we are developing a computer-based competence test to assess these central aspects of basic CCE, i.e. "climate literacy". Based on the large PISA surveys, the focus here is less on testing whether the young people know and can reproduce certain facts, but rather to test whether they can apply their knowledge in solving climate-relevant problems.

Since CCE is not dealt with in a single school subject, but climate-relevant topics play a role in many, if not all, subjects, the tasks for the competency test are created by an interdisciplinary research team  from different disciplines and related didactics (geography, biology, physics, technology, political science, economics, theology, nutrition and health sciences, consumption studies as well as fashion and textiles).
However, it is not knowledge and the ability to apply this knowledge to problems alone that determine our actions. Instead, climate-relevant behavior is also influenced by other characteristics, such as attitudes and motivation. In order to investigate how these factors interact, the test will also include questionnaires on motivation and attitudes as well as self-reported behavior.
The aim of the project is to create and validate the measurement instrument in the target group of 9th grade students from all types of schools in Baden-Württemberg. If the validation is successful, the competence test can then be used on a large scale to determine the need for further CCE measures nationally and to check the success of such measures.

The Project Team

Prof. Dr. Werner Rieß  (Gesamtleitung)
PH Freiburg, Institut für Biologie und Ihre Didaktik

Prof. Dr. Josef Künsting (Methodische Leitung)
PH Freiburg, Institut für Psychologie

Monika Martin, M. Sc. Psychologie
PH Freiburg, Institut für Biologie und Ihre Didaktik

Magdalena Stadler, M.A. Soziale Arbeit
PH Freiburg, Institut für Psychologie

Dr. Roman Asshoff (Biologie)
Universität Münster, Zentrum für Didaktik der Biologie

Prof. Dr. Ute Bender (Ernährung und Konsum)
PH Freiburg, Institut für Alltagskultur, Bewegung und Gesundheit

Prof. Dr. Franziska Birke (Wirtschaft)
PH Freiburg, Institut für Berufs- und Wirtschaftspädagogik

Prof. Dr. Astrid Carrapatoso (Politik)
PH Freiburg, Institut für Politik- und Geschichtswissenschaft

Prof. Dr. Anne-Marie Grundmeier (Mode und Textil)
PH Freiburg, Institut für Alltagskultur, Bewegung und Gesundheit

Prof. Dr. Christian Höger (Theologie)
Universität Luzern, Theologische Fakultät, Religionspädagogisches Institut

Prof. Dr. Stephan Schuler (Geographie)
PH Ludwigsburg, Institut für Sozialwissenschaften – Fachbereich Geographie

Jun.-Prof. Dr. Martin Schwichow (Physik)
PH Freiburg, Institut für Chemie, Physik, Technik und ihre Didaktiken

Prof. Dr. Jennifer Stemmann (Technik)
PH Freiburg, Institut für Chemie, Physik, Technik und ihre Didaktiken

Milestones achieved

In the first few months, we initially developed a competency model of climate literacy based on existing models (e.g. scientific literacy in PISA) and thus defined the central content and skills to be covered by the test. The content dimension is determined by 12 basic concepts, each of which represents essential aspects of basic climate education. These basic concepts were discussed and formulated by the interdisciplinary team and then validated by external experts from various areas of climate research. Additionally, we formulated four skill components, which, in addition to the content, form the basis item development.

In spring 2022, we developed a total of around 180 test items on various topics related to climate change. For item development, we collaborated with teacher educators from nine different disciplines (biology, geography, nutrition and consumption, fashion and textiles, religion, physics, politics, technology and economics). The test items are based as closely as possible on the students' everyday lives and are intended to cover a wide range of difficulties. During the development process, we tested the items with students in ninth grade. The focus here was on whether instructions and item stems were formulated in an understandable way, whether the distractors were plausible and whether the items could be completed in the allotted time. Among other things, we used the "thinking aloud" method, which allows insights into students' cognitive strategies when working on the test.

We piloted the computer-based competence test in two pilot studies (end of 2022 and spring 2023), each involving around 350 tenth-graders at different schools in Baden-Württemberg. From the pilot studies, among other things, we determined task difficulties and processing times. In addition, we identified items that needed to be revised or removed for further use of the competence test.

Parallel to the development of the competence test, we reviewed and selected existing scales for assessing climate-relevant attitudes, motivation and behavior. We combined the scales into a questionnaire and piloted them on a sample of around 280 students.

At the end of the 2022/23 school year, we tested a sample of over 800 ninth graders from various types of schools in Baden-Württemberg with the combined instrument (competence test and attitude questionnaire). We used this data to identify areas of climate literacy that are already well promoted in school climate education as well as areas that are currently difficult for students (e.g. interpretation of graphically presented information on climate change). All participating schools received feedback on the level of climate literacy of their students in the various areas compared to the overall group and their comparison group (e.g. only academic track). In addition, we are currently investigating differences between different groups as well as correlations between different constructs (e.g. cognitive and affective components of climate literacy).

Future Milestones

As the entire competence test is very extensive, taking 70 minutes to complete, we are developing several short scales that can be used in different contexts (e.g. intervention studies). We would also like to develop further tasks to extend the range of difficulty of the test.

As part of an interview study with teachers, we were able to identify the need for a tool that can be used to easily evaluate lessons on climate change issues. We are therefore planning to implement an easily accessible online questionnaire that teachers can use in the classroom to obtain reliable, anonymous and aggregated information on constructs of interest (e.g. prior knowledge, motivation, attitudes, ...).