Initial Publication Date: February 1, 2017

Overview of GER Topics

Topical areas of geoscience education research are listed below, with an emphasis on GER at the undergraduate level and research areas that can inform best practices of teaching and learning. They include topics that are important to all discipline-based education research (DBER), as well as specialized topics that are more specific to teaching and learning about the Earth. This list was informed by the NRC analysis of discipline-based education research (Singer et al., 2012), focus group discussions of geoscience education researchers and practitioners at the 2015 GER workshop, survey results from the 2016 GER, the Wingspread report (Acrobat (PDF) 879kB Sep3 16) (Manduca et al., 2003), the Earth in Mind II Synthesis report (Kastens and Manduca, 2012), and a paper by Lewis and Baker (2010) in the Journal of Research in Science Teaching. We recognize that some of the topical areas listed below are intertwined and overlap, and that some topics have multiple scales of investigation. The bullet points below each GER topic are examples that illustrate the scope of the topic, and are not a complete list.

  1. Students' conceptual understanding of content in geoscience courses
    • Conceptual understanding: focus on content knowledge, Earth science , climate, ocean , and atmosphere literacy
    • Misconceptions and preconceptions
    • Learning progressions
    • Systems thinking / complexity
    • Concept inventories
    • Focus on particular sub-fields of geoscience (e.g., geomorphology, oceanography)
  2. Cognitive domain and problem solving in geoscience courses
    • Problem-solving, including solving of interdisciplinary problems
    • Quantitative reasoning
    • Temporal reasoning
    • Spatial reasoning (e.g., GIS)
    • Using and understanding models, simulations, and visualizations of Earth processes
    • Expert-novice spectrum
    • Promoting transfer to new learning situations or settings
  3. Instructional strategies to improve geoscience learning in different settings and with different technologies
    • Design, use, and evaluation of different instructional strategies and their effectiveness in various settings (e.g., large lecture, lab)
    • Role of technology (e.g., on-line, hybrid learning, e-learning)
    • Teaching and learning with large complex online datasets
    • Place-based and cross-cultural geoscience learning
  4. Geoscience students' self-regulated learning / metacognition
    • Encouraging students to think about their learning
    • Basic learning assessment methods: Minute papers, knowledge surveys, etc.
    • Developing students' study skills
  5. The affective domain and the geosciences
    • Attitudes, motivations, and values of students in geoscience courses
    • Attitudes of geoscientist faculty towards students' career paths (e.g., K-12 teaching career vs science career)
    • Attitudes of geoscience faculty towards inquiry-based teaching methods
    • Science/math self-efficacy
    • Beliefs (e.g., about evolution, climate change)
    • Strategies to promote motivation or provide materials and opportunities that students value or find relevant
  6. Access and success of under-represented groups in the geosciences
    • Recruitment and retention of geoscience students and faculty
    • Socio-cultural influences on access and success in the geosciences
    • The role of mentoring in the geosciences
    • Broadening participation, diversity and inclusion
    • Access and success at different scales (e.g., courses, programs, community)
  7. Nature of science / nature of geoscience
    • Developing geoscience expertise (knowledge and skills geoscientists use when working on complex, field-and data-based problems and the novice-expert continuum)
    • Teaching nature of science throughout the curriculum (e.g., introductory to upper-level learning progressions)
    • Using research and research-like experiences
  8. Elementary, middle, and secondary Earth science teacher education
    • Pre-service teacher preparation
    • In-service teacher professional development
    • Development and assessment of NGSS curriculum
  9. Tranining and professional development of graduate students and college/university geoscience educators
    • Preparation and continuing professional development for geoscience faculty
    • Preparation of geoscience and geoscience education graduate students
    • Preparation and professional development of teaching assistants
    • Strategies for promoting changes in faculty practice at different scales (e.g., individuals, departments, programs, institutions, communities)
  10. Geoscience informal education and geoscience literacy
    • Influence of geoscience informal education on public attitudes and understanding of Earth processes and hazards (e.g., climate change, earthquakes)
  11. Teaching about the Earth in the context of social problems
  12. Development and validation of surveys and instruments to collect data on all of the topics listed above
    • Validation and adaption of existing instruments originally developed for other contexts (e.g., other STEM disciplines, general education student perceptions of course learning environment)
    • Development of new assessment instruments

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