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Stanford University Conducts dscout Diary Study to Understand Attitudes Towards Climate Change

How do you understand families’ attitudes towards climate change? An approach with unmoderated and moderated study.

Veronica Lin is a doctoral researcher at Stanford University's Graduate School of Education in the Learning Sciences and Technology Design program. Her work focuses on the intersections of educational technology, access, and the environment.

As part of her dissertation research, she partnered with dscout to investigate the ways technology might support families' learning about climate issues. The global pandemic's effects on schooling made for a timely study examining challenges—and opportunities—the remote context offered.

The Approach

Veronica leveraged the Diary, Live, and Recruit tools to conduct both moderated and unmoderated work. She recruited families with younger children from across the US, with differing attitudes and beliefs on climate change. She was careful to not frame the "issue" of the environment and education around it as a purely political one. She wanted the focus to be on the content and the modes of delivery.

Veronica's unmoderated research included multiple activities:

  1. Getting to know the families' at-home context, including informal science learning activities and experiences with the environment
  2. An intervention, which involved showing families two pre-selected videos in a randomized order: An animated short on types of reusable bags and a more traditional speaker discussion (a TED talk) on a species of fish found in coral reefs
  3. An artifact sharing exercise, where caregivers engaged in an environmental education activity with their child and reported on the learning experience
  4. A final reflection on the entire mission, including the videos, self-directed learning experiences, and attitudes and beliefs on climate change

She followed the unmoderated work with 13 semi-structured interviews designed to offer more space for families to share their perceptions and experiences, and for Veronica to dig more deeply into the motivations around environmental education moments.

“I tried very much to match my recruited sample to the general population statistics on ‘The Six Americas’, both for the Diary mission and Live. It was really fascinating to hear all of the different experiences.

“Another big hitting point was that dscout has this giant database of scouts who are eager and motivated to participate, and they're all over the country, and I have this ability to recruit for different types. The diversity in the pool was really important for this work.”

The mixed methods allowed for organic moments to surface in the unmoderated part that Veronica could surface again in the moderated interviews. She felt the mobile moments approach offered a flexibility to participants: They could submit what was relevant, important, and natural to them on their own time. The diversity of the sample meant that, similarly, there was diversity in interpretation of moments and experience.

The Impact

Veronica is still immersed in her varied and rich data, however some themes are emerging, especially around political identity and behavior related to education. For example, parents on both sides of the political spectrum hesitated to accept the term "environmentalist," either because they felt they weren't doing enough or because of the activism it implied not matching their broader identity view.

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