Initial Publication Date: July 12, 2018

Grand Challenge 5:

How can we better engage learners as co-discoverers of knowledge and co-creators of new instructional strategies in geoscience?


Research shows that student-centered active instructional strategies that involve direct student participation in scientific discovery or instruction, such as peer instruction (e.g., Mazur, 2013), service learning, research experiences, and internships, are effective (Figure 6). Benefits of faculty-student collaborative research in STEM disciplines have been well documented (e.g., Russell, Hancock, & McCullough, 2007; Bangera & Brownell, 2014; Carpi et al., 2017; NASEM, 2017a). Recent efforts to replace standard laboratory-based science courses with discovery-based research activities in the curriculum (e.g., National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine, 2015) and course-based research experiences (CUREs; Corwin, Graham, & Dolan, 2015) highlight the growing awareness of these benefits. Similarly, the importance of service-learning as a way to infuse deep learning in the geosciences is also receiving attention (e.g., NASEM, 2017b).

The idea of engaging students as co-creators of curriculum and instruction in their own courses, another strategy for student-centered active learning that also draws on student interest and creativity, has been proposed in the context of other disciplines (e.g., Bovill, Cook-Sather, & Felten, 2011; Bovill et al., 2015) but has not been tested in geoscience education. Certain students may have expertise in technologies that are useful for geoscience teaching and learning (such as web design, geographic information systems, or drones). Engaging such students as co-creators of new curriculum or instructional strategies can help instructors take fuller advantage of technological advances (e.g., Gros & López, 2016). Greater and more active participation by students in the instructional design process can also enhance the power and validity of assessment tools and learning analytics (Dollinger & Lodge, 2018). However, as Teasdale et al. (2017) pointed out, much more work needs to be done in geoscience classrooms to make them truly student-centered with learners becoming co-discoverers of knowledge or co-creators of teaching and learning, rather than just passive consumers of instruction.

Recommended Research Strategies

  1. Expand on and apply the body of existing knowledge related to undergraduate participation in research accrued by organizations such as the Council on Undergraduate Research.
  2. Expand research on cognitive and affective outcomes of student participation in course-based undergraduate geoscience research (e.g., Bangera & Brownell, 2014; Brownell & Kloser, 2015).
  3. Review and assess different models of service-learning projects used in teaching geoscience and allied disciplines (e.g., Mogk & King, 1995; Tedesco & Salazar, 2006; Coleman et al., 2017; National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, 2017b).
  4. Study and evaluate potential benefits of implementing strategies for involving geoscience students in the co-creation of curriculum and instructional strategies as part of their learning process (e.g., Bovill, Cook-Sather, & Felten, 2011; Bovill et al., 2015).

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