Document Type


Publication Title

Journal of Geoscience Education

Publication Date



Climate change education, asynchronous, quantitative literacy, climate change anxiety


Learning in asynchronous online environments has gained importance over the last several decades, and educational environment shifts from the COVID-19 pandemic appear to have increased this need. Science educators and students need information about which approaches work in the asynchronous environment where informal feedback tends to be reduced, compared to other teaching modalities. In this study, we asynchronously implemented a learning module across 5 institutions that guided students (N = 199) from prescriptive data analysis through guided inquiry and eventually to open inquiry. The module focuses on the science behind climate change. Students work with the same authentic data sets used by professional scientists to examine geologic history and causes of climate change. By analyzing contemporary atmospheric carbon dioxide and temperature data and then using the 800,000-year record available from the Vostok ice core proxy record of atmospheric properties, students identify the causes of climate change and discover the unprecedented nature of recent atmospheric changes. Using a pre/post-module assessment, we demonstrate improvement in students’ understanding of climate change processes and statistical methods used to analyze data. However, there was no evidence that the module develops students’ scientific reasoning about the relationship between causation and correlation. Students maintained that correlation is not causation, even when a robust causal mechanism (i.e., the greenhouse effect) explains the link between atmospheric carbon dioxide and temperature. Finally, our analysis indicated that generally, anxiety about climate change was reduced during the module, such that students become less anxious about the climate change the more they learn about it. However, science-denying students experienced much higher anxiety about climate change than students who accepted the scientific consensus about climate change. Climate science-dissenting students were so few in this study that a statistical comparison was not possible, but this intriguing finding warrants further investigation of the role of anxiety in science denial. Mainly, this study demonstrates how asynchronous online learning environments can indeed support the achievement of learning objectives related to conducting authentic science, such as increasing understanding of climate change and statistical concepts, all while not provoking anxiety about climate change.

Funding Source

This article was published Open Access thanks to a transformative agreement between Milner Library and Taylor & Francis.


This article was published in Journal of Geoscience Education, DOI: 10.1080/10899995.2023.2193810.

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, and is not altered, transformed, or built upon in any way.