Geoscience Education Research (GER) Division Awards

NAGT's GER Division is pleased to offer two division awards: the Transformation Award and the Collaboration Award. If you are aware of a deserving member of our community, please review the Nomination Process and Timeline.

Transformation Award

The Geoscience Education Research (GER) community is committed to the promotion of high quality, scholarly research in geoscience education. To honor colleagues who have made significant contributions to the development of and capacity for geoscience education research, the NAGT GER Division recognizes an individual with the GER Transformation Award.

The Transformation Award recognizes this person for their outstanding contributions to GER. Contributions may include, but are not limited to, leading capacity-building GER activities, developing collaborations that produce fruitful new lines of GER research, or providing expanded opportunities to publish GER literature.

The Transformation Awardee will receive a complimentary one-year membership to NAGT and the GER Division, and a ticket to the NAGT luncheon at GSA. Awardees will be profiled in the division's newsletter. Nominations for this award will be accepted through an online form. Awardees will be selected by a committee composed of the NAGT-GER Division Past President and Vice President, and 2 division members. Nominations for these awards will be kept under consideration for 3 years in the event that multiple people are nominated.

2020 Transformation Award Winner: David McConnell.

Read more about Dr. McConnell's contributions to the GER community. Citation written by Jason Jones, North Carolina State University:

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David McConnell is the 2020 Awardee for the NAGT-GER Division's Transformation Award. For over twenty years, David has worked selflessly towards the promotion of geoscience education research (GER), beginning his discipline-based education research (DBER) journey as a faculty member at the University of Akron in the mid-1990s before moving to North Carolina State University (NCSU) in 2008. Once at NCSU, he started what became a thriving GER graduate program that has produced graduates successfully defending 4 theses and 6 dissertations related to a wide range of GER topics, from student motivation to professional development to course design. Additionally, he has supported two postdocs and over a dozen undergraduate researchers on GER research projects at the institution. Of his graduate students, all have gone on to become contributing members of the geoscience education community, with alumni represented as GER faculty members at research institutions, assistant directors of teaching and learning centers, DBER postdocs, museum educators and instructors of geoscience at both the university and K-12 levels. In addition to his exemplary advising during their graduate careers, David continues to support his former graduate students years after graduation, never hesitating to talk over concerns of becoming new faculty members in different departments, provide career advice, and promote the work of graduates being done at all levels of geoscience education (both formal and informal). One supporting nominator and former student Michael Pelch, Assistant Professor of Professional Practice at Texas Christian University, put it this way, "From my first to my last day as a student, David provided inspiration, guidance, leadership, and friendship that helped me become a successful scientist and teacher. ... Even after graduating, finishing a postdoctoral fellowship, and moving on to a new teaching position, David continues to lend his support."

Personally, Dr. McConnell has published over 60 peer-reviewed articles and books and was recognized as lead author of the Journal of Geoscience Education outstanding paper award for 2018 for a literature review of active learning strategies designed to promote adoption and research of the practices. In addition to his publishing endeavors, he has personally generated more than $3 million from 17 external grants (10 from NSF, 7 as PI, 3 as Co-PI) directly supporting GER projects and initiatives. These grants include collaborations across the community; from leading the multi-institutional Geoscience Affective Research Network (GARNET) project that funded important research on how geoscience students approach learning in the discipline, to being a co-PI on the seven-institution, discipline-wide professional development program, On the Cutting Edge. More recently, David was the PI for the module development initiative of the wide-reaching InTeGrate project, a multi-faceted, nation-wide endeavor that generated resources for teaching geoscience through the lens of societal issues. At NCSU, David has recently funded GER research as PI for two NSF-funded grants; an IUSE project investigating the effects of utilizing a free, web-based assessment tool (CLASS) on the accuracy of student perceptions of geoscience learning and a multifaceted GEOPATHS-IMPACT grant designed to increase the diversity and volume of majors in the Department of Marine, Earth, and Atmospheric Sciences at NCSU. Though just a sampling of David's work in the discipline, one can begin to perceive the scope of his influence in the GER community and his efforts towards promoting GER and greater geoscience education, nation-wide.

Though formidable, David's personal work is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg that represents his participation in the GER community. David has been extensively active in NAGT and is the current Past-President of the organization. He has been active in establishing the Earth Educators' Rendezvous as a successful, nationwide conference, serving on the organizing committee for the inaugural meeting at the University of Colorado in 2015 before acting as the co-chair of the 2016 meeting in Madison (all while leading workshops at both events) and leading grant work that provided money for participants during the 2019 meeting in Nashville. Additionally, he was an associate editor of the Journal of Geoscience Education from 2009-2012.  

This work within professional societies is in addition to being involved with over 100 GER-based presentations at professional meetings over the past decade (either as presenting author or co-author). He has personally given over 70 invited presentations on teaching and learning at venues throughout the US, exposing GER research and evidence-based teaching principles to hundreds of people unfamiliar with our work. Towards this end, supporting nominator LeeAnna Chapman, Postdoctoral fellow at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte, stated, "If there is a subject of interest or of benefit to the geoscience education community, David has likely written about it, given an invited presentation on the topic, and may have even lead a workshop on the topic to help other instructors improve their teaching."

This drive to share effective teaching methods with both students and professionals is also reflected by his co-creation of the GeoScience Videos YouTube channel, for which he and collaborators create short, content oriented videos for student and instructor use. GeoScience Videos have reached over two million viewers in over 200 nations and all 50 states of the US since its launch in October of 2014. This work has not gone unnoticed by the community and his colleagues. David was elected to a GSA fellowship in 2016 and received NAGT's Neil Miner Award in 2010 in addition to having received teaching-related awards at all of his institutions throughout his career as a professor, most recently the Alumni Distinguished Undergraduate Professor award, one of the most prestigious undergraduate teaching awards given at NCSU.

Finally, in the words of supporting nominator, Laura Lukes, Assistant Director for Teaching Excellence, Stearns Center for Teaching and Learning and former NAGT-GER president, David "...has transformed the GER community in a number of ways: elevating the research standards in the discipline, building community capacity through mentorship and providing student opportunities for advancement in GER, and through his openness to explore and consider new ways of doing things." In sum, David truly is the definition of someone who has made "outstanding contributions to GER."


Previous Awardees

2019 Transformation Award Winner: Cathryn A. Manduca.

Read more about Dr. Manduca's contributions to the GER community. Citation written by Leilani Arthurs, CSU Boulder:

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Dr. Cathryn A. Manduca is the 2019 Awardee for the NAGT-GER Division's Transformation Award. For more than two decades, Cathy has been an adroit advocate for high-quality geoscience education and geoscience education research. Her contributions include: (1) leading community visioning and strategic planning activities from which the discipline of Geoscience Education Research emerged; (2) leading capacity-building activities for both geoscience education practitioners and geoscience education researchers; (3) developing collaborations that produced fruitful new lines of geoscience education research; (4) providing expanded opportunities to publish GER literature; and (5) engaging and working with a diversity of individuals, groups, and institutions.

Cathy was one of three leaders whose early community visioning and strategic planning efforts in the mid- to late-1990s produced the initial conceptualization for Geoscience Education Research during theShaping the Future of Undergraduate Earth Science Education workshop. The vision for linking geoscience education with education research was formalized during the Bringing Research on Learning to the Geosciences workshop in 2002, which was funded by the National Science Foundation and the Johnson Foundation and for which Cathy was the lead PI. This workshop brought together twenty leaders from geoscience education, learning sciences, and STEM disciplines who had already introduced learning sciences into their disciplines' education to initiate the development of a community engaged in applying learning sciences to geosciences education. The workshop defined areas of high potential for collaboration and generated recommendations for building capacity in geoscience education research. Through more than a decade of advocacy, in 2015, the NAGT's Geoscience Education Research Division came into being, fostered under Cathy's leadership as the Executive Director for NAGT.

Cathy is perhaps most well known for the capacity building of geoscience education practitioners through her work as the Founding Director for the Science Education Resource Center (SERC). Under her directorship, SERC has offered program after program to facilitate geoscience education practitioners' capacity to provide students at all grade levels with high-quality geoscience education. Such programming has been delivered through On the Cutting Edge, Building Strong Geosciences Programs, InTeGrate, Teach the Earth, and the Earth Educators' Rendezvous. Cathy has also been a leader in the capacity building of geoscience education researchers. Perhaps the most notable examples include her advocacy for GER-dedicated sessions at the Earth Educators' Rendezvous and her central role in the NSF-funded Spatial Intelligence and Learning Center (SILC). According to Nora Newcombe, PI of the SILC, Cathy helped "identify other great working partners and board members" and together they studied specific mechanisms by which students grasp or fail to grasp geoscience concepts.

Cathy's bailiwick in building the capacity of geoscience education researchers also led to the development of fresh collaborations and fruitful lines of geoscience education research. For example, her role in the SILC contributed to large strides in interdisciplinary research that further fueled the emergence of Geoscience Education Research as a new discipline. Through the SILC, she connected cognitive psychologists such as Tim Shipley, learning sciences researchers such as Nora Newcombe, and geoscientists such as Basil Tikoff and Kim Kastens. Supporting nominator, Tim Shipley notes, "With Cathy's assistance we have characterized the spatial skills of students in geoscience courses and developed new approaches to geoscience education based on cognitive science, including new ways to use analogical reasoning." As supporting nominator Tim Bralower describes, Cathy's efforts to connect with researchers in other STEM fields and with scientists who study cognition "enabled her to promote effective pedagogy, teaching data, quantitative reasoning, and effective assessment, [which are] pillars of geoscience education research today."

Cathy's advocacy for Geoscience Education Research also generated expanded opportunities to publish GER literature. For example, she co-edited two volumes, published as GSA Special Papers, which according to supporting nominator David Mogk, introduced Geoscience Education Research to the larger geoscience community. The second of these volumes, Earth & Mind II: A Synthesis of Research on Thinking and Learning in the Geosciences (2012) holds the record as one of GSA's top sellers according to supporting nominator Anne Egger. Furthermore, while serving as the Executive Director for NAGT, Cathy supported the Journal of Geoscience Education's Editor-in-Chief in raising the journal's scholarly profile. The two volumes of GSA Special Papers and the Journal of Geoscience Education provided and, in the latter case, continue to provide a venue for publishing GER literature. The Journal of Geoscience Education remains the stalwart publisher of geoscience education research in the world today.

For more than two decades, Cathy has engaged and worked with diverse individuals, groups, and institutions. For example, the programming offered through On the Cutting Edge and InTeGrate together reached K-12 teachers, graduate teaching assistants, and college professors at different stages in their careers at a range of institutions including high schools, 2YCs, R1s, and minority-serving institutions. She has worked with geoscientists, cognitive psychologists, learning scientists, members of other STEM disciplines, and geoscience education researchers. She has been a collaborator with and a mentor to many members of today's GER community and its extended family in the learning sciences.

In the words of supporting nominator Tim Bralower, "Cathy has been the national leader in promoting rigorous research in geoscience education. Her deep understanding of effective teaching strategies, her ability to connect people from across the sciences, and her vision and energy have transformed geoscience education research." In the words of supporting nominator Anne Egger, "She is a tireless advocate for not only geoscience education research as a discipline, but for all of the individuals that count themselves as geoscience education researchers and for the community of practice that she helped to create." Finally, as supporting nominator David Mogk states, "Simply stated, without Cathy Manduca's vision and leadership, there would be no Geoscience Education Research capability or community."


2018 Transformation Award Winner: Julie Libarkin.

Read more about Dr. Libarkin's contributions to the GER community.

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Julie Libarkin is the 2018 NAGT-GER Division Collaboration Awardee. Julie is a geocognition researcher at Michigan State University who studies how people perceive, understand, and make decisions about the Earth. Julie has transformed the geoscience education research community in three main ways: 1) through her research productivity that cross-cuts disciplines, bringing new methodologies and approaches to GER; 2) leading the GER community in increased rigor in the both the execution of research and publication of findings and 3) her work as a researcher, mentor, colleague has supported and provided new findings in diversity in the geosciences. She is an esteemed researcher that is nationally and internationally known and she has worked across disciplines has been an important change maker in GER establishing the foundation for the respected research community that we in GER now enjoy. She had been Chairman of the Geoscience Education Division of the Geological Society of America and the Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Geoscience Education and she was elected Fellow of the Geological Society of America in 2016 in recognition for her distinguished contributions to the geoscience community.

Since her graduate student years, Julie saw that there was a need in GER to conduct more rigorous qualitative and quantitative research. She worked to learn from other related fields studying their techniques and methodologies to approach social science research and then went a step further to share what she found with others in the geoscience education community through series of JGE articles and conference workshops. She went on to eventually become Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Geoscience Education (JGE). It is in this capacity that she continued to move the needle forward in GER where she established distinctions between "Research" and "Curriculum & Instruction" submissions where she also created new metrics for both types of submissions, increasing the quality of submission for both types of manuscripts while highlighting the importance of both contributions to advance the state of the field.

Julie been PI or Co-PI on numerous federally funded research projects with over $10M in secured grants and she has published over 60 peer-reviewed research articles in a range of publication outlets including: Journal of Geoscience Education, Science, Climatic Change, Journal of Geophysical Research, Journal of College Science Teaching, Tectonophysics, GSA Today, Computers and Geosciences, Astronomy Education Reviews, the Journal of Research in Science Teaching, CBE-Life Sciences, Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, International Journal of Science Education, Geosphere, Journal of Women and Minorities in Science and Engineering, Journal of Engineering Education, among many others. Julie's funding and publishing accomplishments illustrate her ability to work across disciplinary fields as well as her ability to disseminate her research to a broad range of communities.

Finally, Julie has been an advocate and supporter of women, as well as those from diverse and marginalized communities working to not only improve their situations in the geosciences, and academia more broadly, but to improve the geosciences by having them be an essential part of the community.

In summary, Julie's work has been described as "promoting the importance of enhancing access and inclusion in the geoscience disciplines for students from underrepresented groups in order to foster more diverse and innovative perspectives of scientific process." And it has been stated that she has "substantially changed the research culture in GER from qualitative case studies and action research (research centering on a single classroom) to quantitative and semi-quantitative studies using valid and reliable assessment instrument. She has been described as "a pioneer in investigating students' conceptions and in developing assessments that are still widely used today." In all, she has transformed the geoscience education research culture as "work conducted by geoscience educators today is much different than it was in 2000. Today, it is not possible to page through journals that publish geoscience education research without noticing the abundance of quantitative and semi-quantitative studies that were not present 15 years ago. There is no other researcher in our community who has done so much to guide us towards a new model for research as Julie has."


Transformation Award Nominations

Collaboration Award

The Geoscience Education Research (GER) community is committed to the promotion of high quality, scholarly research in geoscience education. New research methodologies and programs of research propel GER forward and have widespread impacts to the teaching and learning of the geosciences. To honor non-GER colleagues (e.g. geophysicists, educational psychologists, education researchers, etc.) who infused the GER community with new approaches to GER, the NAGT GER Division recognizes an individual with the GER Collaboration Award.

The spirit of this award is to recognize the contribution of non-GER collaborators and acknowledge that the effort of interdisciplinary or transdisciplinary research requires a commitment that is not always recognized within one's home discipline or institution. Contributions may include, but are not limited to, engaging in original research or fruitful collaborations that apply new methodologies and/or theoretical frameworks to GER, creating expanded opportunities to publish GER literature beyond the geosciences, present GER research at conferences not typically attended by the GER community, and/or building capacity within the GER community.

The Collaboration Awardee will receive a complimentary one-year membership to NAGT and the GER Division, and a ticket to the NAGT luncheon at GSA. Awardees will be profiled in the division's newsletter. To be eligible for this award, a person must not identify as a geoscience education researcher. It is at the discretion of the award committee to determine if the candidate fits the spirit of this award as we acknowledge that GER colleagues may have a variety of roles (e.g. geology faculty, college of education faculty, psychologists, faculty development specialists). Nominations for this award will be accepted through an online form. Awardees will be selected each year by a committee composed of the NAGT-GER Division Past President and Vice President, and 2 division members. Nominations for these awards will be kept under consideration for 3 years in the event that multiple people are nominated.

Collaboration Award Nominations

There were no 2019 or 2020 Collaboration Awardees.

Previous Awardees

2018 Collaboration Award Winner: Tim Shipley.

Read more about Dr. Shipley's contributions to the GER community.

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Thomas (Tim) F. Shipley is the 2018 NAGT-GER Division Collaboration Awardee. Tim is a cognitive psychologist at Temple University who studies spatial cognition and learning. As a core investigator on the NSF-funded Spatial Intelligence and Learning Center (SILC), Tim led the effort to investigate the intriguing spatial thinking challenges associated with the geosciences. In the decade since SILC was first funded, Tim's work is an example of true transdisciplinary research. As one nomination letter describes, "rather than stay in the comfortable confines of his own discipline, he pushed into the unknown territory of interdisciplinary/transdisciplinary research. Effectively, he trained himself as a geologist in order to understand the problems in cognitive science that the geologists were facing."

Tim has collaborated with and mentored several geoscientists and GER researchers, yielding numerous publications in geoscience-related venues (e.g. Journal of Geoscience Education (9 publications!), Aeolian Research, Nature: Climate Change, Journal of Astronomy and Earth Science Education, Journal of Structural Geology) and highly-regarded psychology journals. This demonstrates to the psychology community the complexity of discipline-based tasks, and raises the value of geoscience education research (GER). Tim's colleagues describe the qualities that make Tim an ideal collaborator. "Tim creates an environment where one is open to say anything", "he gives so generously of his knowledge", and "we co-create knowledge together, knowledge that neither of us could create on our own." "He is always genuinely interested to hear and listen to ideas and concerns. I think this is also why his publications are easily understood in both the psychology and geology domains." The consequence of Tim's collaborations is a shift in how geoscientists and GERs view the discipline. "Dr. Shipley has fundamentally changed the way I think about the world, which includes how I do geoscience research."


Nomination Process

Nominations for both awards will be accepted through the online nomination forms and have the same requirements.

Letters of support should include:

  • At least one letter from a current member of the GER Division
  • 2-4 additional letters from the nominee's collaborators
  • Letters should describe specific activities that demonstrate how the nominee has met the spirit of the award (e.g. led capacity-building GER activities, infused the GER community with new approaches, etc.). We encourage nominators to consider how letter writers might represent the diversity of people the nominee has worked with (e.g. other faculty, grad students, people at different institutions).
  • A current CV for the nominee.

Online nomination forms:

Transformation Award Nomination Collaboration Award Nomination

Award Timeline

Nomination period opens: January 1

Nominations due: June 15

Award committee decision: July 15

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