The role of SFL in Climate Change mitigation

Dr Bronwyn Parkin, University of Adelaide

Given the attitude of our current federal government to the issue of human-induced climate change (Chang, 2021), the attitudes, energy and actions of current school attenders is going to be absolutely crucial in bringing about the necessary changes to the Australian lifestyle and economy to mitigate this existential threat. Although sustainability is a cross-curriculum priority in the primary years’ Australian Curriculum (AAEE, 2019; DEWHA, 2010), teachers face big challenges if they want to teach about climate change in a systematic and effective way. Central to effective teaching and learning is their language choices: what to say, how to say it.

This paper introduces a new teacher resource book, Teaching the Language of Climate Change Science (Hayes & Parkin, 2021). Our intention is to provide teachers with linguistic and other resources to support accurate science as well as the gradual development of powerful scientific language with which to explain and persuade.

I will explain how carefully planned changes in register (Field, Tenor, Mode) (Christie & Derewianka, 2008; Derewianka & Jones, 2016; Halliday & Martin, 1993; Korner, McInnes, & Rose, 2007) guide and frame the gradual development of language-focused pedagogic activities about climate change in the learning area of science, to galvanise informed age-appropriate action.  


AAEE. (2019). Learning across the curriculum: Australian Curriculum Content Descriptions and Elaborations for the Sustainability cross-curriculum priority from Foundation to Year 10. Australia: Australian Association for Environmental Education

Chang, A. (2021). Australian fossil fuel subsidies hit $10.3 billion in 2020-21 [Press release]. Retrieved from

Christie, F., & Derewianka, B. (2008). School discourse : learning to write across the years of schooling. London ; New York: Continuum.

Derewianka, B., & Jones, P. (2016). Teaching Language in Context (2 ed.). Melbourne: OUP.

DEWHA. (2010). Sustainability Curriculum Framework: A guide for curriculum developers and policy makers. Retrieved from Canberra:

Halliday, M. A. K., & Martin, J. R. (1993). Writing science : literacy and discursive power. London: Falmer Press.

Hayes, J., & Parkin, B. (2021). Teaching the language of climate change science. Newtown, NSW: PETAA.

Korner, H., McInnes, D., & Rose, D. (2007). Science Literacy. Sydney: NSW AMES.