Exploring ocean acidification in undergraduate chemistry workshops



Ocean Acidification, Chemistry, Environmental Education



Ocean acidification (OA) has profound impacts on marine ecosystems, particularly the Great Barrier Reef. While many studies investigate students’ understanding of climate change, there is a paucity of research on OA (Aubrecht, 2018; Danielson & Tanner, 2015). Literature suggests effective climate change education is affect-driven and personally relevant (Rousell & Cutter-Mackenzie-Knowles, 2020; Monroe et al., 2019).


This study aims to investigate how to develop students’ understanding of and concern about OA.


Three first-year undergraduate chemistry workshops were designed with different pedagogical approaches. The Community of Inquiry workshop engaged students in philosophical discussion about the scientific, ethical, and social complexities of OA. In the Socioscientific Issues workshop students debated how we should respond to OA. The control workshop aligned with current practices and involved students solving chemistry problems within the context of OA.


The interventions were implemented in Semester 1 2022. A quasi-experimental design was used, students self-selected their workshop. Mixed-methods evaluation involved collection of pre- and post-test data and audio recording students’ group discussions during workshops. These data are undergoing statistical and thematic analysis, informed by literature.


Insights from this project will inform development of an OA inquiry-based learning opportunity that builds students’ knowledge and fosters care for the environment.


Aubrecht, K. B. (2018). Teaching relevant climate change topics in undergraduate chemistry courses: Motivations, student misconceptions, and resources. Current Opinion in Green and Sustainable Chemistry, 13, 44-49.

Danielson, K. I., & Tanner, K. D. (2015). Investigating undergraduate science students’ conceptions and misconceptions of ocean acidification. CBE–Life Sciences 14(3), ar29.

Monroe, M. C., Plate, R. R., Oxarart, A., Bowers, A. & Chaves, W. A. (2019). Identifying effective climate change education strategies: A systematic review of the research. Environmental Education Research, 25(6), 791-812.

Rousell, D. & Cutter-Mackenzie-Knowles, A. (2020). A systematic review of climate change education: Giving children and young people a ‘voice’ and a ‘hand’ in redressing climate change. Children's Geographies, 18(2), 191-208.

Author Biographies

Paris A.K. Zeilla, The University of Queensland

PhD Student (School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences)

Kim Nichols, The University of Queensland

Associate Professor (School of Education)

Gwendolyn Lawrie, The University of Queensland

Professor (School of Chemistry and Molecular Biosciences)