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Educational Research

Educational Research

Are you interested in researching effective teaching methods in your course? Investigate the effectiveness of workshops? Study the project impact on affect, cognition or behavior of participants? Do you want to contribute to the broader knowledge of the field about best practices? These are reasons for you to design an educational research study.


Educational research design involves the following steps:

  1. Define measurable project goals and objectives.
  2. Identify a theoretical framework for the study
  3. Develop a logic model or theory of change.
  4. Develop research questions and hypotheses
  5. Develop a research design (incl. participants, sample size, data collection method, instruments)

    • Qualitative study
    • Quantitative study
    • Mixed methods study (triangulation of qualitative and quantitative data)
  6. Develop a data analysis plan
  7. Request institutional review board approval
  8. Conduct the research and data analysis
  9. Publish the findings

The educational research team at CIRES Education & Outreach has experience in conducting educational research around:

Climate Literacy Efforts and projects that assess climate education projects, including assessment of cognition, beliefs, and affect; developing and using validated instruments; using hand sensors to assess emotional engagement; and collecting and coding qualitative data.

  • Libarkin, J.C, Gold, A.U., Harris, S.E., McNeal, K.S, Bowles, R.P. (2018): A new, valid measure of climate change understanding: Associations with risk perception. Climatic Change, 150(3), pages 403-416.
  • Cervato, C., Charlevoix, D., Gold, A., Kandel, H. (2018):  Research on Students' Conceptual Understanding of Environmental, Oceanic, Atmospheric, and Climate Science Content. In: St. John, K. (ed.): A Community Framework for Geoscience Education Research. Framework of the Grand Challenges in Geoscience Education Research. (online at
  • Aksit, O., McNeal, K.S., Libarkin, J.L., Gold, A.U., Harris, S., (2017): Undergraduate Students’ Knowledge and Risk Perception about Climate Change. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 55 n4 p550-572, doi:10.1002/tea.21430
  • Harris, S., Gold, A.U. (2017): Learning molecular behaviour may improve student explanatory models of the greenhouse effect - Environmental Education Research, 24 (5), 754-771,  doi:10.1080/13504622.2017.1280448.

Place-based and culturally sensitive education projects around climate and environmental topics:

  • Littrell, M., Gold, A.U., Tayne, K., Okochi, C., Leckey, E., Lynds, S., Williams, V., Wise, S. (submitted): Exploring the role of place in students’ engagement with environmental challenges in their community through filmmaking: A case study on the Lens on Climate Change program. Journal of Geoscience Education.

Misconceptions and the importance of solutions in teaching about climate literacy efforts

  • Tayne, K., Littrell-Baez, M.K., Leckey, E., Gold, A.U. (2018): Engaging with Climate Change as a Socioscientific Issue in an Informal Science Learning Environment. In: Kay, J. & Luckin, R. (eds.) Rethinking Learning in the Digital Age. Making the Learning Sciences Count., International Society of Learning Sciences Conference Proceedings, v. 1, p. 1715-1716.
  • Tayne, K., Littrell-Baez, M., Leckey, E., Gold, A. (2018): Toward More Meaningful Climate Change Education: Investigating the Role of Climate Change Solutions. Paper presented at American Evaluation Research Association Annual Meeting, New York. Extended Abstract
  • Littrell-Baez, M., Tayne, K., Leckey, E., Gold, A., Okochi, C., Wise, S., Lynds, S., Smith, L., Oonk, D. (2018): A Qualitative Approach to Understanding Lens on Climate Change Students' Perspectives on Climate Change. Paper presented at the American Evaluation Research Association, Annual Conference, New York.
  • McCaffrey, M. S., & Buhr, S. M. (2008). Clarifying climate confusion: Addressing systemic holes, cognitive gaps, and misconceptions through climate literacy. Physical Geography, 29(6), 512-528.

Spatial reasoning projects

  • Gold, A.U., Pendergast. P., Ormand, C., Budd, D., Mueller, K. (2018): Improving Spatial Thinking Skills among Undergraduate Geology Students through short online Training Exercises. International Journal for Science Education.
  • Gold, A.U., Pendergast, P., Ormand, C., Budd, D., Stempien, J., Mueller, K., Kravitz, K. (2018): Spatial Skills in Undergraduate Students – Influence of Gender, Motivation, Academic Training, and Childhood Play. Geosphere, 14, no. 2, doi:10.1130/GES01494.1.

Metacognition in educational settings

  • Littrell-Baez, M. K., & Caccamise, D. (2017). A cognitive perspective on chemistry instruction: Building students’ chemistry knowledge through advancing fundamental literacy and metacognitive skills. In P. Daubenmire (Ed.), Metacognition in chemistry education: Connecting research and practice. (pp. 31-42). ACS Symposium Series; American Chemical Society: Washington, DC.
  • Littrell-Baez, M.K., Friend, A., Caccamise, D., & Okochi, C. (2015). Using retrieval practice and metacognitive skills to improve content learning. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, 58(8), 680-687. DOI: 10.1002/jaal.420.

We are happy to partner on developing an educational research project.  Contact us any time!


Anne Gold; Director, CIRES Education & Outreach

Megan Littrell; Educational Researcher, CIRES Education & Outreach

Susan Lynds; Senior Evaluator, CIRES Education & Outreach

Kathryn Boyd; Evaluator, CIRES Education & Outreach