March 2017 Spotlight: Kaatje van der Hoeven Kraft

The March 2017 GER Spotlight is Dr. Kaatje van der Hoeven Kraft, Geology Faculty at Whatcom Community College. In her profile, she describes her career as a faculty member and researcher at a two-year college (2YC), and shares strategies for finding fun and interesting projects and staying productive in writing.

What path led you to GER?
My very first Discipline Based Education Research (DBER) Project was as a junior in college (Colby College), back when very few people were doing DBER. I wanted to know why more women weren't in the geosciences. I worked with my professor (shout out to Paul Doss, now at University of Southern Indiana) to develop a survey, a sampling strategy and ultimately shared my findings at a local geology meeting in Southern Maine. From my research, we found that it wasn't so much a lack of girls' interest as an overall lack of knowledge about Earth science as a discipline. It wasn't until over a decade later that I appreciated how unique of an opportunity that had been, but how much it shaped my future directions and choices. After I finished my traditional undergraduate and master's degrees in geology, I went on to start teaching at a community college. I found my passion for teaching, and was able to develop opportunities to collaborate with education researchers as part of my experience with NSF funded programs, including On the Cutting Edge (OTCE). One such experience is described in a recent book chapter on professional development (Lewis et. al, 2016) and the outcome of discussions that started at an OTCE meeting resulted in one of greatest research career accomplishments (to date) with the publishing of my article on affect in the geosciences (van der Hoeven Kraft et. al, 2011). Ultimately, I realized I needed to know more, and so I decided to get my PhD in education, as that was where I felt I lacked the most expertise. One of the best aspects of having a MS in geology and a PhD in education is that I am able to directly apply the knowledge of how students best learn in my classroom on a regular basis.

What does GER look like at your institution?
Research is not a priority at my institution. As an instructor at a community college (2YC), my primary job duty is teaching with some expectation of service and professional development, which can include research. So doing education research is something that must be of interest and value for me to find the time to do it and make it a part of my life. In order to make this time, I set aside specific "research" time as though it were a class in order to do research. That may be reading a recent paper, reviewing a paper, or working on an instrument for collecting student data; it may involve data analysis, or even answering questions about my research for the GER division. But essentially, most of my research time is done during breaks and in the summer.

What have you found to be most successful in balancing teaching with research?
Partnering with others is critical, particularly for someone at a 2YC. Most of my research comes from informal conversations with colleagues at conferences or workshops in which we decide to pursue something we're particularly excited about, or for an upcoming conference we want to make sure we attend. Additional benefits of a collaborative effort is that we share the expertise needs, have critical conversations and ideas that are beyond the individual, and which allows for excuses to get together virtually and sometimes physically. In order to get the writing done, I've found it particularly helpful to have writing retreats—whether it be physically removed (ideal, but costly) from everyday distractions, or setting aside a particular week/weekend with colleagues when we acknowledge our time is solely dedicated to writing and checking in with each other regularly.

What is the current focus of your research?
I just recently worked with Karen Kortz (Community College of Rhode Island) on her Course-Based Undergraduate Research (UGR) she developed at her college, and it has inspired me to start doing more course-based UGR in my own classes. UGR is one of the high impact practices that demonstrates for students your high expectations of their capabilities, but setting it up in a way that scaffolds their ability to do so successfully. When talking about issues of equity and diversity in the geosciences, particularly at 2YC's, this is critical for student success. I hope to start collecting some data on the outcomes of these projects soon. In addition, I'm collaborating with my colleagues Rachel Teasdale (CSU Chico) and Mike Poland (USGS) on some new volcano activities similar to those we developed for Hawaii (Teasdale et. al, 2015). Lastly, I really want to publish my dissertation... maybe this will be the summer for it.

Lewis, E. B., Baker, D. R., Bueno-Watts, N. B., & van der Hoeven Kraft, K. J. (2016). Science teachers' professional growth and the communication in science inquiry project. In T. Norton (Ed.), Professional Development (pp. 1-57). Hauppage, NY: Nova Science Publishers.

Kortz, K. & van der Hoeven Kraft, K. J. (2016). Geoscience Education Research Project: Student Benefits and Characteristics of Effective Design of Undergraduate Research Experiences. Journal of Geoscience Education, 64(1), 24-36. DOI: 10.5408/15-11.1.

Teasdale, R., van der Hoeven Kraft, K. J., Poland, M. P. (2015). Using near-real-time monitoring data from Pu'u'O'o vent at Kilauea Volcano for training and educational purposes: promoting authenticity in learning. Journal of Applied Volcanology, 4(11), 1-16. DOI: 10.1186/s13617-015-0026-x

van der Hoeven Kraft, K.J., Srogi, L., Semken, S., Husman, J., and Fuhrman, M. (2011). Going beyond Content: A New Framework for Teaching in the Geosciences. Journal of Geoscience Education, 59(2), 71-84. DOI:10.5408/1.3543934