Integrate > Workshops > Teaching the Methods of Geoscience > Overview
Digital Mapping Demo
A demonstration of dynamic digital mapping. Photo by David Tewksbury

Workshop Overview

Through most of their years in K-12 school science, students are taught a scientific method that bears little resemblance to the methods practiced by geoscientists. This lack of experience in methods other than experimentation has many negative consequences: many students fail to discover the geosciences as a major, others consider it to lack the rigor of "real" science. Perhaps most problematically, this is an exceedingly difficult cycle to break, since pre-service teachers are unlikely to take the number of courses and get involved in geoscience research in a way that helps them to internalize the multiple methods of science and then teach those multiple methods in their classrooms.

Explicitly teaching the methods of geoscience in a variety of settings is an important part of expanding students' conception of the scientific method. Those methods include making detailed observations of the natural world, assembling multiple lines of evidence to evaluate competing hypotheses, developing and experimenting with models of natural systems, incorporating proxies for working with large temporal and spatial scales, and working with complex systems. While these techniques are often integrated implicitly into geoscience courses, there is a need for making instruction in these methods explicit. Many types of students can benefit from this type of instruction: undergraduates who are entering the geosciences as their chosen field of study, pre-service teachers who will be teaching scientific methods in their classrooms, students who are studying the history and philosophy of science, and even students who plan to enter fields where geoscience research plays a critical role, such as climate change and energy policy.

The purpose of this workshop is to bring together a group of faculty who are involved in teaching the methods of geoscience to begin to build a community around these ideas. The workshop will consist of a combination of plenary talks, panelist presentations, discussions, and time for networking and collaboration. Workshop participants will share successful strategies and materials for teaching the methods of geoscience.

An important outcome from this workshop will be to identify opportunities where new curricular materials will have a major impact on integrating teaching the methods of geoscience across the curriculum, which is part of a larger project goal to create new teaching materials. This workshop is also part of the professional development component of the InTeGrate project.

Dates

The workshop will begin in the late afternoon of June 27, 2012 and will end at noon on June 29, 2012. Accepted participants are expected to attend all sessions.

Following the workshop, optional field trips will be held the afternoon of June 29 and all day June 30. The afternoon of June 29 we will take a hike up the spectacular Hyalite Canyon area south of Bozeman through the Eocene Absaroka Volcanics. See the online Trail Guide to Hyalite Peak which gives a step by step overview of the scenery and geology of the area (weather and trail conditions permitting). An alternative activity for this afternoon, if the trails are impassable, will be a road tour of the Gallatin Valley, visiting sites that demonstrate "Teaching Environmental Geology in Your Backyard" from the On the Cutting Edge workshop on Teaching Environmental Geology.

The all-day field trip on Saturday June 30 will be a tour of the NW part of Yellowstone National Park. The route will travel south from Bozeman towards West Yellowstone (a side trip to the 1959 Hebgen Lake Earthquake area is possible time permitting), with stops in Yellowstone at geothermal areas such as Fountain Paint Pots, Norris Geyser Basin, and Mammoth Hot Springs. We will end the day at Chico Hot Springs for a soak in the hot springs, and a BBQ dinner.

Goals

The goals of this workshop are to:
  • Bring together geoscience faculty from different types of institutions to share strategies for teaching the nature and methods of geoscience;
  • Explore opportunities where a focus on the methods of geoscience will enhance the undergraduate curriculum;
  • Discuss the challenges involved in teaching the methods of geoscience and the pedagogies to support that teaching;
  • Discuss the challenges involved in assessing understanding of the nature and methods of geoscience;
  • Document and share current courses and activities that explicitly involve teaching the methods of geoscience;
  • Identify areas where new curricular materials in teaching geoscience methods would be of broad utility;
  • Begin developing inter-institutional teams of faculty to develop and assess teaching materials.


Who should apply?

This workshop is designed for college faculty who teach the methods of geoscience or who conduct research in this area. We anticipate applications from faculty who teach science methods courses for pre-service teachers, research methods courses for undergraduate geoscience majors, nature of science courses for general education, or any other course that includes explicit instruction in the methods of geoscience. Faculty who are engaged in research in any of these areas are also encouraged to apply. We also encourage applications from interested faculty from education departments who are involved in teaching science methods.

Application Process

The application deadline for this workshop was March 30, 2012. Accepted applicants were notified on April 13, 2012. Prior to the workshop, accepted applicants will be asked to fill out a registration form to confirm their attendance and to communicate their travel arrangements.

Selection Criteria

The final list of participants was established with the goal of obtaining a group of faculty who already have teaching or research experience in this field and will be ready to share their expertise with others. We selected a diverse group of faculty in terms of institution type and expertise. Preference will be given to US faculty.

Expectations

All workshop participants were expected to:
  • Prepare in advance for the workshop via readings, writings, discussion or other activities developed by workshop leaders.
  • In advance of the workshop, submit a description of both a course and an activity that involves teaching the methods of geoscience, including the means of assessment. Submissions will be featured on the InTeGrate website and integrated into the Teach the Earth portal.
  • In advance of the workshop, submit a 1-3-page essay describing your insights into teaching the methods of geoscience. This could be based on your experience teaching the methods, your research on teaching, or your geoscience research. Submissions will be featured on the InTeGrate website and integrated into the Teach the Earth portal.
  • Participate fully in the entire workshop, beginning with the opening session on June 27, 2012 and ending in the evening of June 29, 2012. The field trip on June 30 is optional.
  • Accepted participants will be asked to complete a registration form to confirm their participation. Registration is a commitment to participate in all workshop activities. Registrants who withdraw from the workshop will incur any related costs, except in the case of extenuating circumstances (such as a personal emergency).

Expenses

There is no fee to attend this workshop, and the project grant (NSF DUE - 112533) covers participant lodging (double occupancy), some meals, and supplies during the workshop. Participants or their institutions will need to cover the cost of travel to and from the workshop location. Workshop travel stipends were available for a limited number of participants for whom travel costs present a barrier to participation. The deadline for applying for travel stipends was March 30th.

The optional field trip will have a registration fee which will cover transportation, meals, and an entrance fee for Chico hot springs on June 30.

If you applied for an received approval for a travel stipend, here are the instructions for receiving your stipend.


Facilities

The workshop will be held on the campus of Montana State University in Bozeman, MT. Participants will be housed in a hotel and will eat meals on campus and in town.

For more Information

Contact Anne Egger (annegger at geology.cwu.edu)




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