How I Got Here Part III: Towards Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in the Earth Sciences

David W. Mogk
Author Profile
published Sep 3, 2009

View Part I: Enlightenment. View Part II: Building Community.

The last decade has been a whirlwind of opportunities to work on behalf of Earth science education on many fronts: course and curriculum improvement, pedagogy, integrating research and education, use of information technologies and digital resources to support instruction, faculty professional development, discipline-specific research on learning in the Earth sciences....

Cathy Manduca and I have continued the collaboration started in the Shaping the Future of Undergraduate Earth Science Education, Innovation and Change Using an Earth System Approach project (AGU, 1997), pursuing a variety of related projects in support of Earth Science and STEM education. A major part of our work has been in developing digital information services such as the Digital Library for Earth System Education DLESE Community Plan (Acrobat (PDF) 745kB Nov8 13); Manduca and Mogk, 2000), the National Science Digital Library (Pathways to Progress: Vision and Plans for Developing the NSDL ; Manduca, McMartin and Mogk, 2001). Kim Kastens played a large role in these projects as well, contributing to both collections development and community review mechanisms of learning objects.

A related project produced the Using Data in the Classroom project report and website (Manduca and Mogk, 2003). Work in the realm of using information technologies to support Earth Science and STEM education continues today in the Teach the Earth and Pedagogy in Action web portals. I have a long-standing interest in Integration of Research and Education and have developed an extensive website for researchers and educators that demonstrates numerous ways in which digital library technologies can be used to translate exciting new scientific discoveries into effective instructional practice.

Community-based workshops have long been an effective mechanism to promote networking among colleagues with similar interests, to address issues of critical importance, and to plan for next steps. For example, I worked with John Brady and Dex Perkins in 1996 to convene a workshop supported by a grant from the NSF Undergraduate Faculty Enhancement program on Teaching Mineralogy and produced a workbook with a collection of active-learning based exercises (now available through the Teaching Mineralogy website). These events helped to reinvigorate this discipline, which was widely viewed as being arcane and irrelevant to the emerging geoscience curriculum. Subsequently, a long-term collaboration began with Heather Macdonald, Barb Tewksbury and Cathy Manduca to integrate our individual efforts in convening a variety of stand-alone community workshops; thus the On the Cutting Edge program for undergraduate faculty professional development was developed. This program has served the geoscience community since 2002, and integrates face-to-face workshops, virtual workshops and webinars, and accompanying websites to aggregate instructional resources and to disseminate effective teaching practices. Workshops and websites are developed a) to help faculty in their career trajectories (Preparing for an Academic Career, Early (Pre-Tenure) Career Development), b) about disciplinary subjects (e.g. the "core" of the geoscience curriculum--mineralogy, petrology, structural geology, hydrology, sedimentary geology, paleontology), and to help promote the use of "emerging themes" in the geoscience curriculum related to new science (New Discoveries from Mars, Teaching About Early Earth, Geology and Human Health), and new pedagogies (Teaching with Visualizations, Teaching About the Affective Domain, Teaching About Metacognition).

These last two topics reflect my long-standing interest in discipline-based research on learning in the geosciences. As a graduate student at the University of Washington I was aware of the work of Arnold Arons and colleagues in physics education research, a legacy that I reencountered at NSF through the work of colleagues such as Lillian Mcdermott, Priscilla Laws, David Hestenes, and Eric Mazur. Provoked by a case of 'physics envy', we recommended that a discipline-based research on learning agenda be established in the Earth Sciences in the NSF 97-171 Geoscience Education A Recommended Strategy report, and this was further explored in a report by an advisory panel to NSF in a report Bridges: Connecting Research and Education in the Earth System Sciences ( Mogk, 2000). Research on learning in the geosciences is not a new field of investigation; colleagues such as John Carpenter, Phil Astwood and Nir Orion have made important seminal contributions. In 2002, Cathy and I along with cognitive scientist Neil Stillings convened a workshop sponsored by NSF and the Johnson Foundation (Wingspread Conference) on Bringing Research on Learning to the Geosciences. The workshop brought together Earth science educators, cognitive and learning scientists, and colleagues engaged in research on learning in sister disciplines. The founding member and co-editor of this blog series, Kim Kastens, was an invited participant and author. The workshop report outlined a collaborative research agenda for research on learning in the geosciences. A subsequent GSA Special Paper #413, Earth and Mind: How Geologists Think and Learn About the Earth (Manduca and Mogk, 2006) includes thirteen articles that further explore many dimensions of human cognition and Earth science. Our collaboration with Kim Kastens has continued with our current work on the Synthesis of Research on Thinking and Learning in the Geosciences project. There is another forthcoming GSA Special Publication that will continue to explore research on learning in the geosciences related to temporal thinking, spatial reasoning, learning about complex systems, and learning in the field. This blog is one of the outcomes of the Synthesis project.

The three blog entries on "How I Got Here" provide an account of my personal odyssey through the past 15 years of working on behalf of geoscience education. I've been privileged to learn from the masters before me, and to have benefitted in immeasurable ways from colleagues with whom I've had the pleasure and honor to collaborate with. Throughout all these activities, I think there have been two constants: 1) I am strongly committed to "grass-roots" community organizing, and believe that everyone has something to offer, and something to gain by becoming involved. We all benefit by inclusion and participation by colleagues with different knowledge, skills and interests. 2) I remain energized by the excitement of inquiry and discovery in Science, and much of my work has been focused on developing new ways to integrate new scientific discoveries into regular classroom activities.

So, in the Earth and Mind blog site, I hope to reflect on the lessons learned from these experiences, and to look ahead to new horizons. I plan to explore many dimensions of classroom practice and curricular design, integration of research and education, and the currency of the Earth sciences in addressing contemporary societal issues. I'm particularly interested in the nature of geoscience expertise--how we think and learn about Earth-- and how this information can be translated into responsible decision-making about how to live on Earth. The three contributing editors have worked together for many years in geoscience education, but all bring to the table diverse experiences and insights. We hope that this will be a forum for you to get involved, find your "niche" in the geoscience education community, and to be inspired to try something new. Earth science education has come a long way in the past 15 years and the best is yet to come! We look forward to your comments as we explore teaching and learning about Earth in this blog series.


American Geophysical Union, 1997, Shaping the Future of Undergraduate Earth Science Education, Innovation and Change Using an Earth System Approach, F. Ireton, C. Manduca, D. Mogk (eds).

Manduca, C. A., and Mogk, D. M., 2000, Digital Library for Earth System Education: A Community Plan, University of Oklahoma, 44 pp.

Manduca, C.A. and D.W. Mogk (2003). Northfield, MN, Science Education Resource Center, Carleton College: 36.

Manduca, C.A., and Mogk, D.M., (eds), 2006, Earth and Mind: How Geologists Think and Learn About the Earth. Geological Society of America Special Paper, v. 413, 188 p.

Manduca, C. A., F. McMartin and D. Mogk (2001). "Pathways to progress: Vision and Plans for Developing the NSDL: Report to the National Science Foundation,"

Manduca, C.A., D.W. Mogk and N. Stillings (2004). Bringing Research on Learning to the Geosciences. Science Education Resource Center, Carleton College, Northfield, MN: 32.

Mogk, D. W., 2000, Bridges: Connecting Research and Education in the Earth System Sciences. Recommendations from the pre-planning committee of the "Geoscience Education in the Next Millennium" meeting at the National Science Foundation

National Science Foundation, 1997, Geoscience Education: A Recommended Stategy (NSF 97-171)

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