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Students least informed about environmental science are most optimistic
Date:4/22/2009

Will problems associated with environmental issues improve in the next two decades? According to an analysis of student performance on PISA 2006--an international assessment of 15-year-olds--students who are the best informed about environmental science and the geosciences are also the most realistic about the environmental challenges facing the world in the next 20 years. Meanwhile, students who are least informed in these areas are the most wildly optimistic that things will improve.

These attitudes are among the results presented in Green at 15?, a study done by sociologist David Baker and colleagues at Pennsylvania State University, in collaboration with a team of researchers at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, or OECD, an international organisation that helps governments tackle the economic, social and governance challenges of a globalised economy. A PISA assessment is done every three years. PISA 2006 focused on science, assessing the knowledge and skills of more than 400,000 students in 57 countries around the world.

"PISA is a very large study, and there is a lot of material that's not covered in their final report," Baker said. "It seemed to me that, given all the attention the environment has captured, it would be useful to know what 15-year-olds know and think about the environment, particularly environmental science and geoscience."

The report looks at two broad areas: achievement, or "scientific literacy," and students' attitudes about the environment. In the area of achievement, American students' performance was typical of other PISA assessments, with scores in the middle of the pack.

The assessment used a combination of multiple choice and fill-in-the-blank questions to give students an opportunity to analyze and interpret data. For example, a question on the Greenhouse Effect included graphs showing carbon dioxide emissions and the average temperature of Earth's atmosphere over time
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Contact: Maria C. Zacharias
mzachari@nsf.gov
703-292-8454
National Science Foundation
Source:Eurekalert

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