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Misunderstandings of atmospheric carbon budgets: Advances toward remediation of a common student misconception

, Iowa State University, United States

Iowa State University . Awarded


With recent U.S. government efforts to develop policy procedures for addressing climate change, it is imperative that the public understand basic aspects of climate change in order for them to understand such policy. However, widespread misconceptions of basic atmospheric principles exist. In this study we document levels of misunderstanding that U.S. undergraduate students have with respect to atmospheric carbon budgets and factors that may account for variability in their understanding. Students enrolled in an introductory geology course (n = 947) completed a survey on atmospheric carbon budgets in two sequential semesters. Results indicated that most students did not have a basic understanding of mass-balance problems, and that their misunderstanding varied according to gender and their interest in science. Further, students tended to exhibit very poor graphical interpretation skills when examining mass-balance graphs.

This thesis also describes a case study designed to remediate atmospheric carbon budget misunderstandings and misconceptions. This study is based off of one year's data collected from a survey completed by introductory physical geology students (n = 465) including a control group (n = 399) and an experimental group (n = 66). The students in the experimental group worked on a remediation assignment targeting identified misconceptions during a laboratory session. After students completed the remediation assignment, which was designed to challenge the students' specific areas of misunderstanding, significant learning gains and misconception reductions were observed.


Reichert, C.P. Misunderstandings of atmospheric carbon budgets: Advances toward remediation of a common student misconception. Master's thesis, Iowa State University. Retrieved October 5, 2023 from .

This record was imported from ProQuest on October 23, 2013. [Original Record]

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