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A new study from North Carolina State University suggests textbook wording that portrays climate change information as uncertain can influence how middle and high school students feel about the information, even for students who say they already know about climate change and its human causes.

The study, published in the journal Environmental Education Research, has implications for how teachers can prepare students to face misinformation about climate change.

“I thought students’ knowledge or social norms surrounding climate change would buffer them from misinformation,” said study author K.C. Busch, an assistant professor of STEM education at NC State. “But it didn’t matter how much knowledge students had; they did not react to the text differently. That’s problematic. We think that if we could improve students’ knowledge, they can integrate that knowledge in the real world to sniff out misinformation or disinformation that’s being presented to them. That didn’t happen.”

In the study, Busch surveyed 453 students in California about how certain they felt about climate change before and after they read one of two articles about climate change. The articles’ wording suggested either low or high uncertainty about climate change.

“I thought students’ knowledge or social norms surrounding climate change would buffer them from misinformation,” said study author K.C. Busch, an assistant professor of STEM education at NC State. “But it didn’t matter how much knowledge students had; they did not react to the text differently. That’s problematic. We think that if we could improve students’ knowledge, they can integrate that knowledge in the real world to sniff out misinformation or disinformation that’s being presented to them. That didn’t happen.”

In the study, Busch surveyed 453 students in California about how certain they felt about climate change before and after they read one of two articles about climate change. The articles’ wording suggested either low or high uncertainty about climate change.

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