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Climate Change Curriculum for Harvard Graduate School of Education Students. (With Professor Tina Grotzer)

Needs Analysis / Surveys for a Climate Curriculum


Inspired by the United Nations 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, the ultimate goal of the course is to produce graduates from schools of education worldwide who can serve as leaders in the 21st century global movement on the pressing issue of climate change mitigation, adaptation, impact reduction and early warning. Implementation of the course was documented in Springer Nature (below).

Survey Administration and Interpretation

In order to assess preliminary needs and interest in a climate change curriculum for the 21st century at HGSE, we administered a Knowledge, Attitude, and Practice (KAP) survey to 66 respondents comprised mostly of HGSE students. A randomized sample was collected through an online survey soliciting students within HGSE and the greater Harvard community. Limitations of the survey include probable bias towards climate activism due to its opt-in design, as well as its small sample size, representing less than 10% of the overall HGSE student population. The 66 participants were affiliated with various programs at HGSE and planned to go into different sectors in education, reflecting the diverse student composition in education sectors that our curriculum targets. Each question was designed specifically to corresponded with a Knowledge, Attitude, or Practice (KAP) assessment of student’s understanding and interest of climate change.  


A survey of the participants’ self-assessed knowledge on climate change revealed 66.2% of the respondents reporting they had gathered some information about the subject, and 15.4% claiming to have very limited knowledge on climate change. To test the actual knowledge of climate change, two multiple-choice questions were administered, questioning the causes and effects of climate change. Only 13 respondents, comprising 19.7% of the total sample answered correctly on both questions, demonstrating a significant gap in students’ actual knowledge of climate change.


  90.5% of the respondents were very certain that climate change was happening, showing a strong consensus on the existence of the phenomenon. 95.4% of respondents expressed concerns regarding climate change, with 64.6% of the respondents responding that they were very concerned about climate change. There was a general consensus with regards to whether education had a significant role in mitigating climate change, with 95.4% of respondents selecting 4 or 5 on a scale of 5, with higher numbers indicating greater significance. Although slightly weaker (84.6%), strong agreement was also observed in responses to the question of whether educators were significant in mitigating climate change.


            By analyzing qualitative responses to questions asking one’s efforts taken to mitigate climate change, we could extract five general themes that represented the responses: reducing one’s own carbon footprint, raising awareness, engaging in political action, no effort, and skepticism of individual effort in mitigating climate change. The majority of the respondents (90.4%) have made efforts in mitigating climate change, with the most common responses related to reducing their own carbon footprint (80.7%).

Next, an analysis of one’s attempt to mitigate climate change through education yielded six different themes: informal conversations, teaching students, using social media, organizing events, and advocacy. The most common attempts were engaging in informal conversations (25.5%) and teaching students on the topic of climate change (23.4%).


     34 students, or 52.3% of total respondents, showed an interest in taking a course on climate change and education.


Whereas formative assessments like ours are not meant to be generalizable nor predictive of actual behavior, this figure provides some indication that there is considerable interest in CCE. The authors shared the results of the survey, and the feedback was immediately positive. The urgency of the situation and the demand from the student population clearly demonstrate the need for this class.  

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