Class puts students in heat of debate

UMD’s Department of Communication offers a course for students to discuss and analyze the abstraction that comes with discussing climate change. The class Communication Inquiry: Social Scientific Methods discusses and researches what makes climate change so controversial. Professor Aaron Boyson has done research on the subject of global warming in his classes. With his students, Boyson takes an interactive approach on how global warming should be discussed, how to develop strategies that would influence a belief in global warming, and how to instill the idea that global warming is more than a scientific concern in today’s world.

“Global warming is a communication issue,” Boyson said.

Boyson is an overt believer in global warming and believes that as a scholar and scientist, it is his duty to spread the word and advocate for change. He encourages this ideology to his students, most of whom are communication majors and are required to take the course. The class does not exclude any students with differing beliefs, however. Boyson understands that the arguments behind global warming are often times politically charged.

“It’s a social science class; the main research of the class is trying to get people to change their behavior and attitude about global warming,” Boyson said. “But, I will accommodate to different opinions.”

The class does not exist to change students’ minds, but rather for students to conduct research. The research often removes the impact of political affiliation and instead focuses on the issue of climate change from a scientific and empirical standpoint. Boyson has contemplated exploration on the affects political ties have on the scientific theory of climate change, but currently he is sticking to a scientific approach.

Boyson has his students develop a system of approach regarding the discussion of global warming. In the past, students have created a play in which they act out people who either believe or don’t believe in the issue and then work to convince the other student of their stance through an organized debate. The play that the students act out mimics an idea called counter-attitudinal advocacy.

“They’re small-scale projects,” Boyson said, “but they’re hard work and in-depth.”

There is still a debate on the best way to handle the controversy of global warming. The research is on-going and hard, clear evidence that the counter-attitudinal approach does not exist just yet. Boyson is not concerned, though. To him, the most important thing when it comes to his class is what the students get out of it.

“The goal of the course is for students to become message experts,” Boyson said. “We are working on a very real problem with research that I hope my students might find gainful and rewarding.”


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