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Climate protection meets cognitive dissonance

Authors: Sonja Fasbender, Ute Rommeswinkel, Annika Wachten

Abstract: Project "Klimabildung+" - Research and practical implementation in primary schools -
The project „Klimabildung+” represents a real pedagogical challenge: Our mission is to educate
primary school children on climate protection and empower them to take action without imposing too
many constraints on their everyday life or frightening them.
“Should I buy a nice t-shirt which is produced under inhuman working conditions at the expense of the environment?”, “Should I avoid eating strawberries in winter?” or “How can I stop using plastic bags?”. Regarding those questions children are often drawn into an inner conflict. On the one hand, they want to protect the environment, on the other they are kept in their confirmed habits. Children cannot easily solve these mental conflicts on their own.
The new teaching units of NaturGut Ophoven deal with the inner dilemma which educators call
„cognitive dissonance“. Children are stressed mentally when beliefs and values are inconsistent with
one another. That concept goes back on Leon Festinger's theory from 1957 and focuses on how
humans strive for internal consistency.
Project objective
The project wants to encourage children to behave climate-friendly and environmental-friendly and it
wants to pinpoint options of how to decide in dilemma situations. The institute of Biology and its
Didactics was responsible for the subject-didactic guidance. The program evaluation was conducted
by “e-fect dialog evaluations consulting eG”. The evaluation aims to obtain well founded information on the effectiveness of the new teaching units, especially with regard to the experience of and coping with cognitive dissonance.
The revision of the five units was carried out on the basis of the evaluation results and the empirical
values of the responsible project team.
Method: Teach climate protection in a different way!
All teaching units are organized in a practice oriented manner. Through dialogues pupils gain thematic
input. An essential component of each program consists of the personal confrontation with a dilemma
story which the pupils have to discuss. Thus, moral conflicts are evoked and finally solved in a way
that children can easily deal with. The innovative method of dilemma stories provides the opportunity
to deal with cognitive uncertainties concerning climate protection and to make children capable of

Keywords: cognitive dissonance, inner dilemma, climate protection, teaching unit