November 2019 Spotlight: Anne Egger

This month's GER Spotlight is Dr. Anne Egger, Associate Professor at Central Washington University in the Department of Geological Sciences and Science Education. Dr. Egger focuses on exploring big datasets to better understand the landscape of geoscience education and education research. She will be taking on the role NAGT Executive Director this December and was recently elected as 2019 Geological Society of America Fellow.

What research methods/approaches do you prefer and why?

I am really interested in mining large datasets to help shed light on the broad landscape of teaching and education. I recently published a paper and a report that makes use of data from the National Geoscience Faculty Survey, and I've also used results from the InTeGrate Attitudinal Instrument. In both cases, I've compared them to results from the National Survey of Science and Mathematics Education (NSSME), the Faculty Survey of Student Engagement (FSSE), various surveys and statistical data from the American Geosciences Institute (AGI), and statistics from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). There are a lot of challenges and limitations that come along with survey data, but I try to triangulate those data with results from other sources. I have also used simple compilation of many studies frequently, and I'd like to take that a step further to real meta-analysis.

In addition to liking the opportunity to look at the big picture, I am also a data nerd and I just like sorting through all of these incredibly rich datasets that have been collected, often for years, with so much potential.

What has been the best tool/resource you've found for developing as a geoscience education researcher?

Two things come to mind for me, neither of which are really traditional tools or resources. Far and away, collaboration is the best tool for me as a researcher. I really benefit from working in a team with shared interests but different bnackgrounds and approaches – this is true for me in both my tectonics research and education research. It works well for me for two reasons: first, I am held accountable for my own work, and second, I am constantly learning something new and that helps keep me engaged.

However, serving as an editor is a close second. Just as I enjoy working with large datasets in order to see the landscape of what I'm studying, I enjoy seeing the landscape of what other people are doing, how they are doing it, and what kinds of questions they are asking. As an editor, I also see how well they are able to ask and address those questions, which is useful for thinking about the needs of the geoscience education research community as a whole.

What is the most interesting paper you have read in the field recently? Why is this paper meaningful for your work?

This has evolved over time, as I suspect is true for many people. But there are a few that have topped the list recently:

  • For a great example of large-scale data analysis that is short and readable by most students, I love Stains, M., Harshman, J., Barker, M. K., Chasteen, S. V., Cole, R., DeChenne-Peters, S. E., . . . Young, A. M. (2018). Anatomy of STEM teaching in North American universities. Science, 359(6383), 1468-1470. doi:10.1126/science.aap8892
  • I learn a ton from almost anything written by Mark Winschitl about teacher preparation and ambitious science teaching, but lately my must-read is Windschitl, M., & Stroupe, D. (2017). The Three-Story Challenge:Implications of the Next Generation Science Standards for Teacher Preparation. Journal of Teacher Education, 68(3), 251-261. doi:10.1177/0022487117696278

There is a set of publications from the National Academies that I consider my essential library, including:

  • How People Learn II: Learners, Contexts, and Cultures (2018)
  • How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School (2000)
  • Science Teachers' Learning: Enhancing Opportunities, Creating Supportive Contexts (2015)
  • Preparing Teachers: Building Evidence for Sound Policy (2010)
  • Discipline-Based Education Research: Understanding and Improving Learning in Undergraduate Science and Engineering (2012)
  • Science and Engineering for Grades 6-12: Investigation and Design at the Center (2018)

What does GER look like at your institution, in your position?

I am GER at my institution – in fact, I am DBER at my institution. There are others who do science education research, but no one in a particular science discipline. Though we have a graduate program (Masters only), and though my colleagues are comfortable with me bringing students in to conduct an MS in geoscience education, I have been reluctant to do so because of the lack of a cohort and relevant resources for that student. I am currently thinking about ways to develop a regional or virtual cohort and classes that might make taking graduate students more possible.

Read Dr. Egger's recent paper: Egger, A. E. (2019). The Role of Introductory Geoscience Courses in Preparing Teachers—And All Students—For the Future: Are We Making the Grade? GSA Today, 29. doi: