Initial Publication Date: July 12, 2018

Grand Challenge 2:

Inclusion: What are effective strategies in engaging a diverse population of students in their learning and sustaining their interest in the geosciences?


In order to increase representation of systemically non-dominant populations in the geosciences, and to ensure success for all students, we must determine what strategies are most effective in engaging students to effectively learn the geoscience content. Even more importantly, we must determine how students can connect to the content in a way that allows them to identify with the content and feel as though they belong within the geoscience community.

Self-regulated learning has origins in socio-cognitive processes, and as such has been hypothesized that it may vary across ethnic and cultural groups (McInerney, 2011). Towards this end, efforts have been made in other disciplines to characterize the experiences and self-regulatory behaviors of diverse populations during both general science learning and the learning of specific science disciplines (e.g., chemistry; Lopez et al., 2013; Tang & Neber, 2008). As students in the geosciences must utilize an important set of cognitive skills (e.g., spatial thinking and abstraction) to find success (e.g., to learn mineral crystallography or draw cross sections), a similar approach should be developed and enacted within the geosciences. Potential differences and/or barriers to students of diverse populations should then be targeted via interventions designed to maximize the potential for both success and equity across all populations.

In addition, there are barriers that exist within the classroom and the institution that need to be identified in order to develop strategies to support students in developing and maintaining interest and connection to the community. Though the generation and encouragement of situational interest in the geosciences is a diverse and nuanced construct that has been approached in recent work related to geoscience learning (van der Hoeven Kraft et al., 2011; LaDue & Pacheco, 2013; van der Hoeven Kraft, 2017). Future inquiry should seek to isolate potential (and/or differential) barriers to students' situational interest and how it can be sustained during course activities and instructional support. Additionally, if students can effectively learn the content, but are not supported or feel disconnected from the community, they will likely not persist regardless of their comprehension (Chang et al., 2014; Callahan et al, 2017). The strategies that emerge as a result of these potential barriers may look different across different populations and contexts, so future inquiry should seek to investigate and eventually attempt to mitigate potential barriers.

Recommended Research Strategies

  1. Since self-regulatory learning has been hypothesized to vary among socioeconomic and ethnic groups, it is important to identify successful strategies that engage and support diverse student populations in the geosciences, and understand what, if any, barriers prevent such engagement.
  2. Once a variety of self-regulatory learning approaches have been identified for specific populations it will be important to measure the impact of such developed strategies on student learning and equity across populations in the geoscience classroom.