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).


Bangera, G., & Brownell, S.E. (2014). Course-based undergraduate research experiences can make scientific research more inclusive. CBE-Life Sciences Education, 13(4), 602-606.

Bovill, C., Cook-Sather, A., & Felten, P. (2011). Students as co-creators of teaching approaches, course design, and curricula: Implications for academic developers. International Journal for Academic Development, 16(2), 133-145.

Bovill, C., Cook-Sather, A., Felten, P., Millard, L., & Moore-Cherry, N. (2015). Students as co-creators of teaching approaches, course design, and curricula: Implications for academic developers. Higher Education, 16(2), 133-145.

Brownell, S. E., & Kloser, M. J. (2015). Toward a conceptual framework for measuring the effectiveness of course-based undergraduate research experiences in undergraduate biology. Studies in Higher Education, 40(3), 525-544.

Carpi, A., Ronan, D. M., Falconer, H. M., & Lents, N. H. (2017). Cultivating minority scientists: Undergraduate research increases self-efficacy and career ambitions for underrepresented students in STEM.Journal of Research in Science Teaching , 54(2), 169-194.

Coleman, C. Murdoch, M., Rayback, S., Seidl, A., & Wallin, K. (2017). Students' understanding of sustainability and climate change across linked service-learning courses, Journal of Geoscience Education, 65(2), 158-167.

Corwin, L. A., Graham, M. J., & Dolan, E. L. (2015). Modeling Course-Based Undergraduate Research Experiences: An Agenda for Future Research and Evaluation, CBE—Life Sciences Education, 14(1):es1..

Dollinger, M., & Lodge, J. M. (2018). Co-creation strategies for learning analytics. Proceedings of the Eighth International Conference on Learning Analytics and Knowledge, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 97-101.

Gros, B., & López, M. (2016). Students as co-creators of technology-rich learning activities in higher education. International Journal of Educational Technology in Higher Education, 13(28).

Mazur, E. (2013). Peer Instruction: Pearson New International Edition: A User's Manual. Pearson.

Mogk, D. W., & King, J. L. (1995). Service-learning in geology classes. Journal of Geological Education, 43(5), 461-465.

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM). (2015). Integrating Discovery-Based Research into the Undergraduate Curriculum: Report of a Convocation. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASAM). (2017a). Undergraduate Research Experiences for STEM Students: Successes, Challenges, and Opportunities. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM). (2017b). Service-Learning in Undergraduate Geosciences: Proceedings of a Workshop. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

Russell, S.H., Hancock, M.P., & McCullough, J. (2007). Benefits of undergraduate research experiences. Science, 316, 548-549.

Teasdale, R., Viskupic, K., Bartley, J. K., McConnell, D. A., Manduca, C., Bruckner, M., Farthing, D., & Iverson, E. (2017). A multidimensional assessment of reformed teaching practice in geoscience classrooms. Geosphere, 13, 260–268.

Tedesco, L. P., & Salazar, K. A. (2006). Using environmental service learning in an urban environment to address water-quality issues. Journal of Geoscience Education, 54(2), 123-132.

« Previous Page