Initial Publication Date: July 12, 2018

Grand Challenge 5:

How do we broaden the participation of faculty who are engaged in educational research in environmental sciences, atmospheric sciences, ocean sciences and climate sciences and encourage implementation of research-based instruction?


In the U.S. there are approximately 1,200 faculty in oceanography and atmospheric science/meteorology at 4-year institutions, and four times as many faculty are in the broad field of geology or solid Earth. Overall, there are 75 faculty that identify themselves as Earth science education researchers nationwide, and very few of them have a background in oceanography/atmospheric science/meteorology (Wilson, 2016). This difference in numbers is reflected in the size of the community engaged in education research in the fluid Earth field, which makes it challenging to create a research agenda for it (Figure 7).

Calls for a more research-based approach to understanding student learning were made a decade ago (e.g., Charlevoix, 2008), and with only limited GER in the environmental science, atmosphere, ocean, and climate science (compared to solid Earth science), there is reluctance for university departments to dedicate faculty lines to education research in these fields. The interdisciplinary nature of GER is also a challenge for many universities as it relates to tenure-track positions with the tenure process being either less clear or more onerous (O'Meara & Rice, 2005; Trower, 2008; O'Meara, 2010). Efforts and collaborations are underway in the social sciences to connect the research, application, and operation aspects of atmospheric sciences. The GER community could learn from this group as we develop and expand our community (Jacobs et al., 2005; Feldman & Ingram, 2009). Making the work of GER meaningful to faculty across the country can help broaden participation.

Recommend Research Strategies

  1. Information on the importance and relevancy of GER is critical to our ability to engage additional faculty in the GER community as well as institutionalize GER within the Earth and environmental sciences. The value of GER to the university community should be communicated in terms of the benefits to students, the individual institutions, and the disciplinary field. This would contribute to growing the DBER/SoTL community within the fluid Earth disciplines. Resources like the GER Toolbox would be helpful for faculty who are interested in expanding their research into SoTL/DBER. Additionally, documenting and adapting lessons learned from partnerships between social scientists and operational scientists can inform the methods in which GER advocates for and informs faculty of research-based instruction. This in turn would generate interest in implementing research-based instructional strategies.
  2. Grow the footprint of GER at professional society meetings and functions. The professional societies of NAGT, GSA and AGU have been important in the growth of the Earth science education research community. More engagement with NSTA and NARST would also help. Efforts should continue to link DBER who attend NAGT, GSA and AGU meetings with DBER working in the atmospheric and oceanic sciences. The AMS has a small group of atmospheric sciences education researchers not connected to the NAGT/GSA/AGU established communities. A presence of NAGT at the AMS Annual Meeting could engage those DBER who do not attend annual meetings of the GSA, AGU, or Earth Educator's Rendezvous.
  3. Survey the entire atmospheric science community to assess their interest, support, value, and recognition of DBER/SoTL research and/or research-based teaching practices. This would provide useful information to better quantify the size of the DBER/SoTL community, and identify what kind of support there is within the broader community. The survey could be administered by AMS.

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