Grand Challenge 1:

How can research and evaluation keep pace with advances in technological and methodological strategies for geoscience instruction, and with evolving geoscience workforce requirements?


Technological advances in science education, including geoscience education, tend to occur rapidly, and enthusiastic and forward-looking educators may adopt them in their teaching ahead of the dissemination of methodical research findings on their effectiveness or of rigorous evaluation of their learning outcomes (Means et al., 2014; Bull et al., 2017). Many technological innovations in science teaching, including some that have direct relevance to geoscience education, have encountered challenges to making significant, lasting, and economical impacts at scale (Dillenbourg, 2017; Poulin & Straut, 2017; Horodyskyj et al., 2018). Further, geoscience curriculum and instruction may be poorly aligned with or unresponsive to continually evolving geoscience workforce requirements (Mosher et al., 2014; Mosher, 2015) for knowledge, skills, and dispositions (which are the attitudes and behaviors that foster effective use of knowledge and skills). These requirements themselves may be driven by technological advances. Therefore, these three challenges are interrelated, and they sum to a Grand Challenge to geoscience education researchers to keep pace (Figure 2); i.e., to maintain vigilant of (a) innovations in technological and methodological strategies for teaching geoscience, and (b) expectations that employers will have of our geoscience graduates; so as to most effectively direct future research efforts into both of these realms.

Recommended Research Strategies

  1. Expand on studies of technological attributes, cognitive factors, and behaviors that variously facilitate or hinder the effectiveness of virtual, augmented, online, and blended instruction for teaching geoscience knowledge, skills, and dispositions (e.g., Clary & Wandersee, 2010; Young, 2012; Means, Bakia, & Murphy, 2014; Bursztyn, Shelton, & Pederson, 2017; Horodyskyj et al., 2018).
  2. Expand on and validate methods for true and meaningful comparative studies of geoscience teaching and learning in virtual or online versus in-person or face-to-face settings, and at different scales (e.g., Perera et al., 2017).
  3. Explore ways of reconfiguring or redesigning curriculum, instruction, and assessment modalities that are specific to geoscience education, in order to better facilitate timely and demonstrably effective applications of innovations and advances in instructional technology as they appear.
  4. Study faculty instructional design theories and models (e.g., Reigeluth, Beatty, & Myers, 2017; Kastens & Krumhansl, 2017; Ertmer, Quinn, & Glazewski, 2018),to determine the forms of research designs that will best inform future instructional strategies.
  5. Study and apply methodological and technological advances in assessment of knowledge, skills, and dispositions across disciplines, including assessment methods and technologies that were not specifically designed for formal teaching and learning (e.g., Vedung, 2000; Kline, 2013).


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Bursztyn, N., Walker, A., Shelton, B., & Pederson, J. (2017). Assessment of student learning using augmented reality Grand Canyon field trips for mobile smart devices. Geosphere, 13(2), 260-268.

Clary, R. M., & Wandersee, J. H. (2010). Virtual field exercises in the online classroom: Practicing science teachers' perceptions of effectiveness, best practices, and implementation. Journal of College Science Teaching, 39(4), 50-58.

Dillenbourg, P. (2017). The challenges of scaling-up findings from education research. Center for Universal Education. Retrieved from

Ertmer, P. A., Quinn, J. A., & Glazewski, K. D. (Eds.) (2018). The ID Case Book: Case Studies in Instructional Design (4th ed.). New York: Routledge.

Horodyskyj, L. B., Mead, C., Belinson, Z., Buxner, S., Semken, S., & Anbar, A. D. (2018). Habitable Worlds: Delivering on the promises of online education. Astrobiology, 18(1), 86-99.

Kastens, K., & Krumhansl, R. (2017). Identifying curriculum design patterns as a strategy for focusing geoscience education research: A proof of concept based on teaching and learning with geoscience data. Journal of Geoscience Education, 65(4), 373-392.

Kline, P. (2013). Handbook of Psychological Testing (2nd ed.). London: Routledge.

Means, B., Bakia, M., & Murphy, R. (2014). Learning Online: What Research Tells Us about Whether, When, and How. New York: Routledge.

Mosher, S. ( 2015). Critical skills necessary for the development of undergraduate geoscience students. American Geosciences Institute Geoscience Currents 106. Retrieved from

Mosher, S., Bralower, T., Huntoon, J., Lea, P., McConnell, D., Miller, K., Ryan, J., Summa, L., Villalobos, J., & White, L. (2014). Future of undergraduate geoscience education: Summary report for Summit on Future of Undergraduate Geoscience Education. Retrieved from

Perera, V., Mead, C., Buxner, S., Lopatto, D., Horodyskyj, L., Semken, S., & Anbar, A. D. (2017). Students in fully online programs report more positive attitudes toward science than students in traditional, in-person programs. CBE Life Sciences Education, 16(4), ar60.

Poulin, R., & Straut, T. T. (2017). WCET Distance Education Price and Cost Report. Retrieved from

Reigeluth, C. M., Beatty, B. J., & Myers, R. D. (Eds.) (2017). Instructional-Design Theories and Models, IV. New York: Routledge.

Vedung, E. (2000). Public Policy and Program Evaluation. New York: Routledge.

Young, J. R. (2012). A tech-happy professor reboots after hearing his teaching advice isn't working. Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from