Research on Students' Conceptual Understanding of Environmental, Ocean, Atmosphere, and Climate Science Content

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Authors: Cinzia Cervato, Iowa State University; Donna Charlevoix, UNAVCO; Anne Gold, University of Colorado at Boulder; and Hari Kandel, SUNY College at Oneonta


At the interface between atmosphere, hydrosphere, and biosphere, this theme covers content that is societally crucial but publicly controversial and fraught by misconceptions and misinformation (Fig. 1).

Our planet is experiencing hazardous natural events of a magnitude and at a rate not recorded before, like the series of very powerful hurricanes that made an unprecedented number of landfalls in August and September 2017, bringing flooding and destruction to much of the southern U.S. and Caribbean regions (Figure 2), and persisting drought conditions in the West that generated widespread wildfires affecting the air quality of a large portion of the continent (Figure 3). Climate science is an interdisciplinary discipline that straddles the natural and social sciences: understanding its processes requires system-thinking, understanding of mathematical models, and appreciation of its human and societal components.

We have identified five Grand Challenges to the conceptual understanding of this content and its significance, and proposed strategies for the geoscience education research community.

Jump Down To: Grand Challenge 1 | Grand Challenge 2 | Grand Challenge 3 | Grand Challenge 4 | Grand Challenge 5

Grand Challenge #1: How do we identify and address the challenges to the conceptual understanding specific to each discipline: environmental science, ocean sciences, atmospheric sciences, and climate science?


Misconceptions, pre-conceptions, partially correct conceptions, or naive conceptions are a challenge to students' conceptual understanding. Identifying misconceptions that are specific to each discipline of the fluid Earth is the first step in achieving a higher level of conceptual understanding. This can be done using concept inventories, surveys, or focus group interviews (e.g., Arthurs et al., 2015; Robelia & Murphy, 2012).

Project 2061 contains assessment items that target core concepts and misconceptions in the Earth, life, and physical sciences. Each question contains data on the percentage of middle and high school students that answered it correctly. It also contains information on the misconception held by students who answered incorrectly (Prud'homme-Generaux, 2017). There are more than 80 documented misconceptions in the weather and climate theme, including basic concepts and seasonal differences. The website also includes an extensive list of references to studies that explore or unveil misconceptions. Since they are challenging to replace, it is likely that misconceptions held by middle and high school students will persist in college, making the Project 2061 information very valuable for the GER community (Prud'homme-Generaux, 2017).

A review of the literature on misconceptions is available for the solid Earth (Francek, 2013) but research on conceptual understanding of the fluid Earth is scattered among several journals: misconceptions related to tornadoes (Van Den Broeke and Arthurs, 2015), climate change (Huxter et al., 2015), environmental issues (Khalid, 2001; Robelia and Murphy, 2012), ozone formation (Howard et al., 2013), atmospheric pressure (Tytler, 1998), air motion (Papadimitriou, 2001), ocean acidification (Danielson and Tanner, 2015), the greenhouse effect (Boyes & Stanisstreet, 1993; Harris & Gold, 2017), and sea-level rise (Gillette and Hamilton, 2011). Making available a compilation of common misconceptions to educators through an organized review would be a valuable contribution of the GER community.

Research Strategies

  1. The most common barrier to conceptual understanding are existing misconceptions or pre-conceptions, thus identifying them is the first step. Assessment instruments, like the Force Concept Inventory used in physics or the Geoscience Concept Inventory, are commonly used to identify misconceptions: we recommend the creation and/or dissemination of concept inventories about oceanography, climate, and weather as a valuable contribution from the GER community to educators. The Fundamentals in Meteorology Inventory assessment exam (Davenport et al., 2015) could be used as a starting point. The Climate Literacy Principles (USGCRP, 2009) could be used as a compilation of the big ideas in climate science and to organize common misconceptions.
  2. Existing literature focuses on specific misconceptions within the fields of oceanography, environment, climate and weather science for specific populations. An extensive overview of misconceptions on weather and climate is included in Project 2061 but this tool is not widely used by college instructors. A literature review that summarizes what we already know, and how misconceptions compare in different populations, will be a useful guide for future research and educators.

Grand Challenge #2: How do we teach complex interconnected Earth systems to build student conceptual understanding, e.g., climate change?


Teaching about complex systems (e.g. Scherer et al., 2017, Holden et al., 2017), like changes in climate over multiple temporal and spatial scales, represents a challenge that has been studied extensively. Reviewing existing studies, and proposed learning strategies (e.g. Gunckel et al., 2012, Mohan et al., 2009; McNeal et al., 2014; Bush et al., 2016) and drawing from other disciplines would be a valuable contribution to the Earth science community. Learning progression research conducted in the K-12 realm (Songer et al., 2009) can inform instruction in higher education, in particular within the area of interconnected Earth systems. Learning progressions are "descriptions of the successively more sophisticated ways of thinking about a topic that can follow one another as children learn about and investigate a topic over a broad span of time." (Duschl et al., 2007).

Research Strategies

  1. Recent literature reviews on student learning of complex Earth systems (Holder et al., 2017; Scherer et al., 2017) provide the GER community with a foundation that can be used to study the conceptual understanding of climate change. Identifying examples from other disciplines (e.g., engineering) can provide a broader context for future research.
  2. Inquiry and problem-based education have shown promise in enhancing learning of complex systems like climate change. We propose to expand testing of instructional strategies that have shown impact on learning to a broad range of learning environments (e.g., online, introductory, upper-level undergraduate, pre-service teachers, informal) and student populations.
  3. Examination of learning progression research conducted in and developed for the K-12 setting can inform GER strategies used to research undergraduate students' development of understanding complex Earth systems. Adapting such research findings and strategies also has the potential to better align and understand the knowledge that students hold upon entering the higher education system to study earth and environmental sciences.

Grand Challenge #3: What approaches are effective for students to understand various models (numerical and analytical) that are used for prediction and research in atmospheric, oceanic and climate sciences, including model limitations?


The study of the atmospheric, oceanic, and terrestrial systems is based on models that are used for prediction and for the conceptual understanding of these complex systems. Knowledge of computer programming and advanced math is needed to create, validate or understand these models, making the field less accessible to the broad student population (Ledley et al., 2011; Hamilton, 2015; Hamilton et al., 2015).

Another challenge to the use of systems models in atmospheric science is the fact that uncertainty is inherent in them, yet education research shows that novices are not comfortable with uncertainty. This requires a simplification of the models to adapt them to the student population and the implementation of targeted approaches (e.g., Gold et al., 2015).

Unanticipated changes in the forcing functions of the system resulting from unpredictability of human behavior (Konikow, 1986) that commonly involve activities such as increased water use and land conversion further demands continuous upgrade and creation of new models (Oreskes, 2003). Therefore, time-to-time update in our modeling curriculum makes it challenging for students to grasp completely new materials.

Research Strategies

  1. Two working groups are focusing on the cognitive understanding of complex systems. Other DBER communities have conducted research in educational approaches that are effective for the understanding of models. We recommend that education researchers refer to contributions of these groups to identify research paths for the fluid Earth community.
  2. The most important aspect of teaching models is to be able to minimize or even eliminate the widespread skepticism students have about outcomes of the models. Research works on learning impacts of various models dividing them into two groups: i) models that have their validation index reported or that can be validated with existing data, and ii) models that lack validation measures; it would be helpful for educators to select models in teaching and highlight their differences.
  3. Research on how to prepare an inventory of the modeling as decision-support tools in the context of resource management would help students appreciate the importance of understanding models.

Grand Challenge #4: How do the societal influences, affective elements, personal background and beliefs, and prior-knowledge of students impact their conceptual understanding of Earth system sciences?


Students enter classes with a complex array of beliefs and personal history that shapes their learning and their perception of the relevance of what they are learning within their own lives. Literature about cognitive and metacognitive aspects of learning shows that these external factors have significant influence on students' conceptual understanding, particularly on topics perceived as controversial (e.g., Vaughn & Robbins, 2017; Walker et al., 2017). Religious beliefs, political inclination, and social identity are strongly correlated with the acceptance or rejection of perceived controversial science topics like evolution, vaccination benefits, and climate change (Walker et al., 2017)

The strong disconnect between scientific views of climate change and the public perception of the scientific consensus (Figure 1), fueled by media and various interest groups, is a formidable challenge for educators (Walker et al., 2017) and has striking similarities to challenges encountered in teaching evolution in the United States.

Social identity theory hypothesizes that people sort themselves into groups based on perceived similarities (e.g., religion, political inclination) and that they hold onto the opinions of the group to remain part of it, a phenomenon known as identity-protective cognition (IPC, Kahan et al., 2007; Kahan, 2010). Studies have shown that, for example, teaching the evidence of climate change is not sufficient, or even counterproductive (Maibach et al., 2009; Kahan, 2015; Walker et al., 2017). Using stories (Clough, 2011), addressing the connection between student identity and acceptance of certain scientific conclusions (Walker et al., 2017), building from personal background and beliefs, rather than challenging them (e.g., Nadelson & Southerland, 2010; Catley et al., 2005), and focusing on solutions as well as challenges (McCaffery & Buhr, 2007) are powerful teaching approaches.

Research Strategies

  1. We recommend the use of research-based evidence in developing curriculum and formal and informal instructional guides for instructors in how to approach teaching about controversial topics like climate change. Instructions guides would focus on best practices for teaching students about identity-protective cognition and acknowledging external influences on scientific opinions.
  2. The perceived controversy about anthropogenic climate warming is created by groups that organize climate change deniers; learning more in detail about the efforts and agenda of these groups can be used to inform students about misinformation. The GER community should draw on literature in the information sciences, specifically on the importance of information literacy in higher education (Flierl, 2017) and the use of misinformation as a teaching tool (Bedford & Cook, 2013).
  3. Incorporating feedback of human-induced alterations in complex natural system and realizing effects of extreme events of climate change in society requires collaboration between natural and social scientists. Connecting with social scientists doing similar work to create multidisciplinary research and then spreading the resulting messages to community would broaden the impact of this field (Morss et al., 2016; Morss & Zhang, 2008).

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 implementing 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 most of them have a background in geology (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.

Calls for a more research-based approach to understanding student learning were made a decade ago (Charlevoix, 2008), and with the GER community not firmly established there is reluctance for university departments to dedicate faculty lines. 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.

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. 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.
  2. The professional societies of NAGT, GSA and AGU have been important in the growth of the Earth science education research community. 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

Conceptual Understanding - Ocean, Atmosphere, Climate -- Discussion  

See Askit et al., JRST, 2017 The influence of instruction, prior knowledge, and values on climate change risk perception among undergraduates

Refer to Next Generation Science Standards

Consider elaborating on work across 5 strands that covers K-6 as well as middle and high school


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I understand the focus on misconceptions in the beginning, but I think that understanding prior conceptions - correct or incorrect is important to moving the field forward. I would focus more on understanding any prior conceptions.

The "Research Strategies" don't always sound like an outline of research strategies. For example, in Grand Challenge #4 "We recommend the use of research-based evidence in developing curriculum and formal and informal instructional guides for instructors in how to approach teaching about controversial topics like climate change. Instructions guides would focus on best practices for teaching students about identity-protective cognition and acknowledging external influences on scientific opinions." - it is unclear to me what research is being recommended. The same is true in Grand Challenge 5 "The professional societies of NAGT, GSA and AGU have been important in the growth of the Earth science education research community. 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" -- I expected these research strategies to read more like "More research is needed on how communities of education researchers that identify with different professional societies can be gathered in joint efforts"

Clough's work is cited in reference to ways that history and nature of science can be used to teach content. Do these types of concepts - the history/nature of atmospheric science - have a place in our need for conceptual understanding? What role should they play?


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A side note on Grand Challenge #5 and efforts to link Earth science education research communities: Comprehensive literature reviews- to survey the existing research on teaching and learning atmospheric science and oceanography across professional communities- might be beneficial to establishing what work has been done, identifying future research trajectories, and enhancing collaboration.


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This is a great start! I appreciate very much the nod to the importance of social science linkages, too. This is where many misconceptions also begin. As new MOOCs and colleges create science skepticism courses which really help people develop critical thinking skills, it will be a great help to those new teaching practitioners in geoscience. I want to encourage solid coverage of the role of fresh and salt water in the Earth system, here, too - in particular as it relates to water quality and functional ecosystem services. Groundwater is very poorly understood, yet it is the source for most drinking water in the nation. Many environmental hazards are associated with water, too, involving the complexity of source (glacial melt, precipitation) and sink (evaporation, dam failure, sinkholes). This can impact fundamental aspects of the Earth system and help identify design and process-oriented impactful approaches that well align with NGSS components.

A great resource I did not find was the HHMI Changing Planet: Past, Present, and Future - with some great contributions from Naomi Oreskes on both plate tectonics and climate that relate to science knowledge acquisition. I do look forward to seeing growth of geoscience education researchers coming forward and establishing a mature disciplinary practice. And I look forward to a day when there is more acceptance of the idea that Earth science classes at the high school level are indeed "real" science classes. This initiative launched through these grand challenge ideas hit the mark.

In particular to mention about climate change, perhaps, is that the chemistry may be fairly well understood in terms of infrared radiation and interaction with certain gases. However, we are still working on roles of aerosols, clouds, and impacts and interactions between the atmosphere and soils, biosphere, oceans and glaciers. Most of the "heat" is not just measured in the network of thousands of atmospheric observations near the ground or retrieved by satellite and rawinsonde observations aloft. The global warming is not just in the atmosphere, and there are lots of unanswered questions about how these interactions take place and on different time scales. Challenging, but if we ever hope to have our middle school and high school teachers and students begin to appreciate the complexity here, we have to use as many tools as possible to elevate geoscience in the mind of the education community, including advisors, counselors (at schools) and parents and admissions officers (at college/university level). Finally, good inquiry materials and methodologies should involve a range of options for students across the earth sciences, and even more engagement with NSTA and NARST would help, along with GSA, NAGT, AMS, etc.

I agree with others; this is exciting!


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This post was edited by Kristen St. John on Jan, 2018
1. Intro comments: the phrase “Our planet is experiencing hazardous natural events of a magnitude and at a rate not recorded before…” maybe should be clarified. Do you mean in human recorded history? Or from a geoscientists perspective? I know the rate of global warming now is on par or likely exceeds the rate at the onset of the PETM but I don’t know if we are having more hurricanes etc than in the geologic past so trying to not overstate what we know.

2. This is a comment for both WG1 and WG2 and I will put it in both places: What is the GER community’s perspective on the Earth Science Literacy Principles? Are these useful grounding for the solid Earth and the fluid Earth science concept research? I use these when I teach an undergraduate Earth Science for Teachers course and I see that David McConnell and David Steer use them in past and current editions of their Earth Science textbook –The Good Earth. So can/should GER questions here be grounded/connected to in these as well? I see you do reference the Climate Literacy Principles so maybe that is all that is needed for this theme, but if there are ESLPs too that help the that might be a way to connect this fluid theme to the solid Earth theme - esp since both are part of the same Earth system.

3.General comment: I see a common issue/challenge in the solid Earth theme and this Ocean-Atm-Climate theme in that both draw on K-12 frameworks to some extent (here in GC#1’s reference to Project 2061, in WG1 it is NGSS and Framework on K-12 edu) and I think we need to communicate why we are doing that. I think you do that in GC#2 – talking about learning progressions. But maybe that needs to come out earlier in the intro or also in CG31? I see those longitudinal connections important as we try to develop/refine the best undergraduate geoscience teaching and learning experience esp at the gen ed and intro levels.

4. I come away from this thinking mostly about intro level courses in atm/ocn/climate env. But I don’t see a lot here about research on upper level undergrad course (e.g., major courses and programs in atm sci, oceanography, climate). I think this is needed. And we can go beyond that too and recommend conceptual understanding research on connection between college and the next step - research on how we should be preparing geoscience majors for grad school or professions. Does the Summit on the Future of Undergraduate Education help here? I think it would to some extent. I’m not sure the Summit materials have as much in them on the fluid Earth as the solid Earth but it would be good to see if that is a resource to connect to more directly here so that geo ed researchers can focus research on concepts that are deemed important by undergrad geosci educators and administrators and employers.

5. Because WG1 and WG2 are both looking at conceptual understanding research but just for different subdisciplines in geosci it would be great if these two chapters had some unity in message and approach, if appropriate.

6. I really like how you are concise but also cite recent, relevant literature. There are a few places with further citation would help though. For example GC#2 strategies 2 and 3: Statements like “Inquiry and problem-based education have shown promise in enhancing learning of complex systems like climate change” need citation. And in GC#3 (which I really like) could you refer to some of the resources or groups (‘…refer to contributions of these groups…”) you think our community should be drawing from?

7. GC#3, strategy #2: This is an interesting recommendation. However it seems to be more of a recommendation for practitioners than researchers. What is the research side of this? For example, do we need more research on how student deal with scientific uncertainty and specifically focused on GCMs? Maybe this gets at strategy #3? Can this be clarified?

8. GC#4, strategy #1: Do you mean instructional guides? Also is the main thing you are recommending to researchers (including curriculum developers) to develop such instructional guides? Do any exist in our field or others as models to follow?

9. GC#4 - please reach out to WG#10 and share what you have here – this seems to overlap into their area too and that maybe useful for them to consider.

10. Really nice work overall! It is definitely getting my mind thinking about exciting ways to move forward on research in this area.

11. WG3 included examples research questions that support each of their grand challenges. These were then followed by their recommended strategies. I think this was really effective. Maybe this is an approach each working group should use?


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Overall, I find this to be a good set of challenges that brings about many ways forward and many interesting studies! Some specific comments:

1) With respect to GC #1, I absolutely agree that we must identify prior conceptions. I also think it should be mentioned that we should investigate why students hold those conceptions; such knowledge will allow us to better address misconceptions.

2) Related to GC #3, I wonder how much of this difficulty is related to understanding the concepts of deterministic vs. probabilistic models. Perhaps there's something from the statistics education research realm that can speak to this issue? I'm not immediately aware of anything, but I think it should be considered.

3) GC #5 doesn't strike me as clearly advocating for a specific research agenda, just encouraging the development of a community that is not well connected now. I certainly agree with the sentiment, but I don't come away from reading GC #5 with a sense of how research can answer this challenge. The way it's phrased make it seem more like a funding or a culture challenge.


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This post was edited by Alexis Walters on Nov, 2018
I love the direction you all took with this! And I believe all of the concepts are incredibly important and definitely need to be addressed. And I am extremely excited to see that models were included in the grand challenges, as I definitely agree that they are an important component that is too often overlooked.

My comments are specifically about Grand Challenge 3. While I agree that the ultimate goal is to improve understanding of complex statistical and computer models, I think it is really important to take a step back and focus on the big picture with regard to the ultimate question. I would start by pointing out that there has been incredible research done in the science education community about how best to teach students about various models. So the question really is about how we apply what is already known to weather and climate models. For references, I would start with

Therefore, I certainly feel that the overview of GC3 should be focusing on what, exactly, we believe the most important, overarching concept(s) of weather and climate modeling is(are). Schwarz et al. (2009) has a nice overview of several concepts through the development of a learning progression that I think aligns well with the goals for all the Global Challenges ( For what it's worth, I personally would like to see models as 1) representations and 2) tools for prediction being the overarching, big picture, take away ideas that we focus on. However, that specifically might be an aspect of research that is needed for our specific community.

Actually, you already highlighted one overarching, big picture concept to focus on, which is the uncertainty/usefulness of models. I actually agree with this completely because this is part of the concept that models are representations of a phenomenon. Just in case you don't agree, one argument is that we can work really hard to make beautiful, detailed, scaled, physical, 3D objects to describe how something looks (like a strand of DNA or the solar system), but it will always have some level of abstraction/scaling and thus will never be completely perfect (the wrong size, made of the wrong material, static instead of moving, etc). Yet despite the imperfections (both big and small), it can still be a useful tool to better understand the phenomenon (that's the big idea!).

To summarize, I would strongly recommend starting with research that has already been done in the realm of model-based inquiry, with a specific focus on what we (as atmospheric scientists) feel the big picture, overarching, takeaway concepts should be for complex weather and climate models.


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I think all the Grand Challenges (GC) listed here are great. I do have a few comments/suggestions for GC #3 and #5.

GC #3:

I wholeheartedly agree with Morgan’s comments on this. Could we reword the GC #3 question to focus more on teaching the “concept of modeling”, or the use of models as imperfect tools (and keeping the part about model limitations)? Research strategy #3 would fit nicely with this revision.

GC #5:

Rationale: The rationale for Grand Challenge #5 is written very well, but the rationale would be stronger if it was modified to include a breakdown of the statistics for education researchers, instead stating exactly how many or what percent of that total are oceanography and atmospheric science education researchers. It would make a stronger argument if we emphasize that the oceanography/atmospheric science education research community is (at present) very small.

Research strategies: Both Kathy and Casey have excellent points. The research strategies are not clear cut here. I really like Kathy’s suggestion of “More research is needed on how communities of education researchers that identify with different professional societies can be gathered in joint efforts." I suggest a revision to include what research strategies could be used to promote growth of the community and engage more people. For example, a survey of the entire atmospheric science community, including atmospheric science educators, with regard to interest, support, value and recognition (and/or reward structure – does it “count” toward your evaluation process?) would tie back nicely to the suggested addition of statistics on number of self-identified education researchers in atmospheric sciences (in the rationale for GC #5).


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Hi Everyone! It's good to reconnect.

The greatest challenge for the children I work with (pre-kinder and kindergarten) is the confusion between weather and climate.
I think this may be because they're hearing these terms used inter-changeably by adults and in the media.

They are, however, very interested in learning what they can do to positively impact climate change!


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I question the rationale behind separating conceptual understanding into solid earth/geology and ocean/atmosphere/climate. To me, this separation reinforces an artificial boundary that prevents meaningful understanding of the interactions between these systems. Many Earth science concepts cross this boundary, and that often means they get short shrift in the classroom: critical zone, soils, interactions between climate and tectonics. If systems thinking and an understanding of the Earth system (and subsystems) is a goal, then I would consider a different way of parsing it, rather than solid Earth and fluid envelopes - or not separating the two at all.

Some possibilities for alternative divisions include:
- Short-term processes/interactions (rivers and flooding, earthquakes, etc.) and long-term processes/interactions (plate motion, sea-level rise, etc.)
- Focus on topics that involve all spheres but impact humans somehow: resources (energy resources, minerals, groundwater), hazards, etc.

Another key perspective to consider here is student background, culture, and environment. We all sense that students who live in Florida probably have very different prior conceptions of hurricanes and earthquakes than students in California. How does the environment in which students live influence their conceptual understanding, and how persistent is this influence?

I will post this in the other working group as well.


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I really like this section. Deliberate work on testing the effectiveness of educational interventions seems to me to be extremely important (Grand Challenges #2 and #3). And we need to tackle Grand Challenges #1 and #4 in order to inform instructional strategies. And maybe if we build evidence through #1-#4, we can bring more people on board to implement effective strategies in their classrooms.

One thought on Grand Challenge #5 - I see this as addressing two different and distinct populations, who should perhaps be clearly separated: (1) those who might start actively contributing to DBER/SoTL work, and (2) those who become interested in implementing research-based strategies, but are not going to do DBER/SoTl themselves. For reaching the largest student population, I think it's really important to expand the numbers in that 2nd category. This will require a shift in how institutions value teaching and learning broadly. I do, however, also see the important need to expand GER-focused positions hopefully embedded in disciplinary departments, not solely in education-focused units.

I agree with Anne E (just above) that there are many challenges that overlap between solid and fluid earth. The main important distinction in my mind has to do with society's perceptions of these topics. Climate change more overtly controversial politically than many topics in geology. Figuring out how to influence people's risk perceptions regarding climate change just seems like a much bigger deal with more serious consequences than some other geoscience topics (Sorry! I'm biased!). It should get specific attention.

Perhaps a different framing would be to
(1) group/overlap those grand challenges that are common to the solid and fluid disciplines (e.g. understanding prior conceptions; researching effectiveness of instructional strategies; encouraging expansion of evidence-based strategies in the classroom; supporting GER research)
(2) separate out societal/political influences on learning in geoscience.

One topic that keeps coming up in my setting, and I'm not sure if or how it could fit in the GER grand challenges, is the issue of helping students develop skills in data science. Being able to deal with large data sets and extract meaningful information from them seems to be of increasing interest in government, industry, and education. Perhaps there are opportunities for students to learn these skills in the context of geoscience, and if done effectively, could have "double" impact on student learning.


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