Development and piloting of a questionnaire to assess pupils’ attitudes towards climate change

Höhnle S, Hofmann A, Naujoks N, Velling H, Schubert JC (2024)

Publication Language: English

Publication Type: Journal article, Original article

Publication year: 2024


Book Volume: 7

Pages Range: 7-19

Journal Issue: 2

DOI: 10.25321/prise.2024.1455


 Background: Climate change is often regarded not only as the central challenge humanity faces in the 21st century but also as an important topic for geography education in school. In addition, geography is a key subject for education for sustainable development. Constructs that include not only knowledge-related but also motivational and affective fac-tors, such as the attitude construct, are considered to be important prerequisites both for learning and for climate-related behavior. In recent years, several studies have addressed the issue of young people’s attitudes towards climate change. However, to date, no comprehensibly validated measurement instrument exists to assess pupils’ attitudes to-wards climate change in a differentiated manner with reference to the three dimensions of attitudes (cognitive, affec-tive, behavioral/conative), as well as from a geographic perspective. 

Purpose: Therefore, this study describes the development and piloting of a measurement instrument to assess young people’s attitudes towards climate change that is oriented towards the three established dimensions of the attitude construct against a geographical (didactic) background. Furthermore, the instrument should be economically manage-able for application in further research and practice—not only in geography didactics. 

Design and Methods: After developing an item pool in a structured manner and conducting a two-phase qualitative pretest, we examined the factorial structure of the developed instrument by means of exploratory factor analysis (max-imum likelihood analysis with Promax rotation (κ = 4)) of the subsequent main test, also with the aim of identifying particularly suitable items from an initially larger item pool. 

Sample/Setting: The exploratory factor analysis was conducted with a sample of N = 163 students at three grammar schools (“Gymnasium”) in Bavaria. Of these, 51.5% (n = 84) identified as female and 45.4% (n = 74) as male (3.1% (n = 5) did not specify their gender). Seventy-four percent (n = 120) of the students attended grade 9 and 25.8% (n = 42) grade 10 (ages 14–17). 

Results: Our analyses resulted in a final questionnaire consisting of 22 items in three scales reflecting the three dimen-sions of the attitude construct—cognitive, affective, and conative attitudes towards climate change—with good relia-bility values (.825 ≤ α ≤ .904). Medium correlations between the factors (.405 ≤ r ≤ .554) indicated that the scales are one dimensional. Pupils rated their knowledge of climate change (cognitive dimension; M = 5.40, SD = 0.66; 1 = strongly disagree (“trifft gar nicht zu”) to 6 = strongly agree (“trifft voll zu”)) and their climate change concerns (affective dimension; M = 4.08, SD = 1.16) as higher than their willingness to act with regard to adaptation and miti-gation of climate change (conative dimension; M = 3.70, SD = 1.11). 

Conclusions: The designed questionnaire makes it possible to reliably and validly assess the attitudes of pupils towards climate change in a differentiated way in relation to the cognitive, affective, and conative dimensions of the attitude construct while simultaneously including a wide range of topics. Possible application of the developed instrument in research and practice—for example, by teachers in the (geography) classroom to obtain an overview of students’ learn-ing preconditions or to use the results as a starting point for discussion during a lesson on the topic—are discussed. 

Keywords: climate change, attitudes, questionnaire, scale development, geography teaching 

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How to cite


Höhnle, S., Hofmann, A., Naujoks, N., Velling, H., & Schubert, J.C. (2024). Development and piloting of a questionnaire to assess pupils’ attitudes towards climate change. Progress in Science Education, 7(2), 7-19.


Höhnle, Steffen, et al. "Development and piloting of a questionnaire to assess pupils’ attitudes towards climate change." Progress in Science Education 7.2 (2024): 7-19.

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