Synergies with Other National Efforts on Geoscience Education and STEM
This Framework for Geoscience Education Research does not exist in a vacuum; some of the ideas raised here either echo or complement other national efforts to improve STEM education in general, or geoscience education specifically. The GER community has an important role to play by contributing to other projects described below either through direct collaborations or through broader impacts that result from work spurred by this Community Framework for GER.
Opportunity for Synergy with the GER Toolbox
Addressing the thematic grand challenges means using instruments, surveys, and analytical tools; conducting GER studies across institutions; publishing research results; and translating research results into practice. These are all practices that align with the GER Toolbox of resources to help faculty start or improve how they do research on geoscience teaching and learning. Therefore advancing research in GER can benefit from and contribute to the GER Toolbox (Figure 4). In particular, as researchers identify and test instruments and surveys for use in GER, these can be submitted to the GER Toolbox collection; useful analytical tools can be submitted as well. In addition, comments and suggestions can be submitted on all of the existing GER Toolbox resources (e.g., on navigating a career in GER) so advice and "lessons learned" can be shared with other researchers, which supports a healthy community of practice, and new resource pages can be developed, such as on the topics of Research Theories and Research Design and Assessment.
Opportunities for Synergy with Outcomes from the Summit on the Future of Undergraduate Geoscience Education
The Summit on the Future of Undergraduate Geoscience Education was designed to create a "collective community vision for undergraduate geoscience education" (Mosher et al., 2014). More than 200 educators from a wide range of institutions as well as industry and professional society representatives attended and participated. This Summit led to recommendations on the content, skills, and experiences needed to prepare undergraduate students for graduate school and/or for future careers in the geosciences. The Summit also explored issues of pedagogy, technology, and broadening participation of under-represented groups in the geosciences. Clearly there is a convergence of what educators and employers see as important issues in undergraduate geoscience education and the thematic research priorities identified in this Community Framework for GER. Geoscience educators, administrators, professional society representatives, and employers can better achieve their curriculum and career preparation goals by working with geoscience education researchers to design curriculum and instruction (including learning progressions) that are grounded in evidence-based research.
Opportunities for Synergy with Broader Initiatives for Improving Undergraduate STEM Teaching and Learning
The 2017 Association of American Universities report Essential Questions and Data Sources for Continuous Improvements in Undergraduate STEM Teaching and Learning aimed to facilitate conversations at multiple levels inside higher education (i.e., from the course level to the institutional level) on pedagogy, scaffolding (i.e., support), and cultural changes to improve undergraduate STEM education. It also includes a compiled list of established and emerging data sources and analytical tools to inform those conversations and support evidence-based decision-making. Geoscience education shares many of the challenges facing STEM education described in this report, and geoscience education researchers need to be part of those conversations at all types of institutions. In addition, GER should explore the analytical tools and surveys compiled to determine if these may be useful in geoscience teaching and learning contexts.
In addition, there are opportunities to work with other disciplines of STEM education research to build competence and capacity. Growing and nurturing a healthy GER community of practice can occur concurrently with growing and nurturing a broader STEM education research community of practice. Based on recent cross-DBER conversations at workshops and presented in commentaries (Henderson et al., 2017; Shipley et al., 2017), several areas of common research interest include the examination of students' conceptual understanding of complex systems in the natural world; K-12 teacher preparation; access and success of under-represented groups in STEM; students' ability to visualize and reason about unfamiliar scales; teaching in the field and lab settings; students' attitudes about science and society; and best practices for professional development (see Table 3; Shipley et al., 2017).
Opportunities for Synergy with the Big Ideas for Future NSF Investments
In 2016 the National Science Foundation released a report articulating ten long-term research and process ideas that identify areas for future investment at the frontiers of science and engineering. Research to address several of the grand challenges in the GER Framework would also address several of the NSF Big Ideas: Research on access and success of under-represented groups in the geosciences also works to address the NSF Big Idea of Enhancing Science and Engineering Though Diversity. Addressing the GER challenges of research and evaluation needing to keep pace with advances in technological and methodological strategies for geoscience instruction and with evolving geoscience workforce requirements are examples of how future GER will work at the Future of Human-Technology Frontier, another NSF Big Idea. This Big Idea can also be addressed as GER seeks to incorporate new research technologies to assess and record student variables (e.g., knowledge, skills, and dispositions) in real-time. Research on quantitative reasoning and problem-solving in an information-rich society of big data, emerging technologies and access to a wide-variety of tools and rich multimedia converges with the NSF Big Idea of Harnessing Data for 21st Century Science and Engineering. Finally, GER is inherently interdisciplinary - a merging of the geoscience discipline with social science theory and methods - all aimed at improving teaching and learning about the Earth. All of GER therefore works within the Big Idea of Growing Convergent Research at NSF as GER is a merging of ideas, approaches and technologies from diverse fields of knowledge to stimulate innovation and discovery.