April 2018 Spotlight: Kim Cheek

Dr. Kim Cheek, Associate Professor of Science Education in the College of Education and Human Services at the University of North Florida, is the April 2018 GER Spotlight. She is a former elementary and middle school teacher who currently teaches courses for preservice and in-service elementary and early childhood teachers. Her early research focused on students' understanding of geologic time, but she has since branched out to consider students' understanding of scale more broadly.

What is the focus of your current geoscience education research?
I am just finishing a project in which a graduate student and I investigated how images in popular K-8 science textbooks portray spatial, temporal, and numeric scale dealing with Earth's place in the universe and Earth's systems—two major disciplinary core ideas in the Next Generation Science Standards. Our next step is to explore how students interpret those images and whether they even attend to scalar information when it is present. I am in the early stages of work with a colleague from my university to develop STEM micro-credentials for preservice and in-service teachers.

What has been the best tool or resource you've found for developing as a geoscience education researcher?
The geoscience education research workshops at the Earth Educators' Rendezvous have been great. For me, the most impactful part of the EER has been the opportunity to be part of a research community. I love GSA, but the size and structure of the EER makes it more conducive to community building. Like many who identify with GER, my PhD is not in GER, so networking is crucial. Dialoging with others about their research interests always energizes and stretches me.

What is your advice for someone who is interested in starting out in geoscience education research?
Read widely. Of course read every issue of JGE, but also read articles in general science education journals, DBER journals in other fields, and journals in the learning sciences. Different fields have their own ways of framing research questions and writing up results. Put yourself out there. Email someone whose research you've read and found interesting. Take them for coffee if you're both at the same conference.

What type of project would you like to collaborate with other researchers on?
I am interested in collaborating with anyone who wants to study more about how to improve understanding of geoscience concepts among K-8 students and their teachers. I would also love to collaborate with museum educators. Contact me at k.cheek@unf.edu.

Also, check Kim's recent publication:

Cheek, K.A., LaDue, N., & Shipley, T. (2017). Learning about spatial and temporal scale: Current research, psychological processes, and classroom implications. Journal of Geoscience Education, 65(4), 455-472.