Initial Publication Date: February 1, 2017

Opportunities within Units

You can do a lot within your unit to help apply the results of GER to the learning environment itself. If you were hired as a geoscience education researcher then your department probably already values GER and would be receptive to learning about ways in which your GER expertise can benefit the program. If you are more of a boarder crosser into GER, you will still likely find colleagues supportive of GER and colleagues who value data for making evidence-based decisions; making the argument that GER provides the data for improving teaching and learning at the course or programatic level can be motivational. The following are ways to promote GER within your unit (department, organization):

Help your colleagues find, evaluate, choose instructional materials

Whether or not geoscience instructors are actively involved in GER, they care about student learning. That common ground is an opening to share and promote the use of best practices that are grounded in GER. For example, you could promote use of backward design (Wiggins and McTighe, 2005) for aligning learning goals, assessments and activities (e.g., choosing activities that align with goals). You can suggest curriculum and instruction resources that you know have been vetted (e.g., teaching materials in the On the Cutting Edge collection of Exemplary Teaching Activities, and help them design rubrics to assess their own activities.

Team-teach, and train TAs and future faculty

Team- or paired-teaching creates opportunities to transfer best practices in geoscience teaching and learning to other instructors. It promotes regular deep pedagogical discussion with your teaching partner, and creates opportunities for you to collaborate with a colleague in a scholarly way on teaching and learning. Your collaborative efforts may be the nuclei of future action research in GER "gap" areas (e.g., upper level labs). Additionally, if you teach in a graduate program, consider teaching a course for future faculty (aka PhD students) and/or use your skills to promote an evidence-based "best practices" teaching culture among TAs.

Be an active participate in committees that have a direct impact on geoscience teaching and learning

For example, serve on (or offer to chair!) the curriculum committee. Promote the adoption of evidence-based criteria in curricular decisions. Recommend the adoption of introductory geoscience textbooks and lab manuals that are shown to be grounded in educational research findings. In addition, consider how your can help in internal program reviews that occur periodically in most colleges and universities.

Recommend geoscience education researchers for your program's seminar series or for on-campus workshops

Are there particular issues in geoscience education that your program is wrestling with (e.g., increasing diversity, redesigning your physical geology labs, training TAs)? Think about geoscience education researchers that publish and present in those areas. Recommend to your unit head and colleagues that they be invited to your campus for a presentation or workshop, and informal discussions with faculty and students; chances are you will have an audience for what they have to share.

Promote the value of GER expertise in program evaluation efforts

Most programs undergo regular periodic (e.g., every 5 -10 years) review of their program by external committees. GER experts comfortable with evaluation can be well suited to helping their program prepare for these evaluations and for serving on external program review committees. Consider recommending geoscience education researchers when the time comes for external review of your program, and be open to serving as an external review of geoscience programs at other institutions. The SERC Building Strong Departments resources are also helpful in this effort.

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