Initial Publication Date: June 7, 2017

National Geoscience Faculty Survey



The National Geoscience Faculty Survey has been administered four times, in 2004, 2009, 2012, and 2016. The original 2004 survey was developed as part of On the Cutting Edge, a National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded professional development program for geoscience faculty sponsored by the National Association of Geoscience Teachers (NAGT). Subsequent surveys preserved core questions while adding, deleting, and revising questions to collect information to address new areas of interest. The first three surveys were developed by leadership of On the Cutting Edge. The 2016 survey was developed by a research team involving leadership of the professional development programs On the Cutting Edge, Interdisciplinary Teaching about Earth for a Sustainable Future (InTeGrate) , and Supporting and Advancing Geoscience Education at Two-Year Colleges (SAGE 2YC) , with support from their NSF grants (see funding).

Survey Instruments

The 2004 survey was developed by the principle investigators of the On the Cutting Edge project in collaboration with the external evaluator, Dr. John McLaughlin, and the Statistical Research Group at the American Institute of Physics (AIP) (Macdonald et al., 2005). This group modified the instrument in 2009 based on the results of the 2004 administration. In 2012, the survey was modified by On the Cutting Edge leadership and evaluators in consultation with Professional Data Analysts, Inc., who were contracted to complete the data analysis of the 2009 survey, administer the 2012 survey, and help to analyze the results (Manduca et al., 2017). The revisions for the 2016 survey were developed by a research team involving leadership from On the Cutting Edge, InTeGrate, SAGE 2YC, with expertise from Greenseid Consulting Group, LLC. and Professional Data Analysts, Inc.

The items for the 2004 survey were tested for clarity in a pilot survey administered to 16 faculty as well as through interviews with five faculty at the American Geophysical Union (AGU) Fall 2002 meeting. For the 2009 survey, revised items were tested using a written survey and associated interviews with 37 faculty at the AGU Fall 2007 meeting. For the 2012 survey, expert reviews and think-aloud administrations were conducted with four faculty. The 2016 survey was administered as a pilot to 200 faculty who were randomly selected from the survey sampling frame with 33 responses to the pilot. The pilot included feedback questions about the survey teams but no common themes emerged and only minor changes were made to the final survey.

In all four surveys, after a set of demographic questions, faculty were asked to respond to a set of questions related to a specific introductory or majors course they taught in the previous year, following these items were an additional set of questions related to professional development.


All four surveys were administered by email to lists of identifiable geoscience faculty who taught undergraduate courses. With every administration, efforts were made to reach the most complete sample. All surveys were based on lists developed with the help and permission of the American Geological Institute (AGI).


The 2004 survey was emailed to approximately 5,700 faculty, and 2,207 faculty participated.


The 2009 survey was emailed to 5,107 faculty in March and then to an additional 810 faculty in September (On the Cutting Edge geoscience faculty workshop participants who had not been included in the original invitation list) with 2,874 faculty participating in 2009.


The 2012 survey was sent to 7,813 faculty and 2,466 faculty participated. This email list was created from records from four sources: 1) AGI list, 2) email list of two-year college geoscience faculty compiled from institutional data sources and augmented by two-year college instructors, 3) email list of atmospheric science or meteorology faculty generated from list of institutions offering degree programs listed on the American Meteorological society website, and 4) On the Cutting Edge participants.


The 2016 survey was sent to 10,910 individual geoscience faculty members in the United States. A total of 2,615 faculty completed one or more questions to the survey. Excluding 18 retirees, the survey response rate was 24.0% (2,615 out of 10,892 eligible contacts). Excluding retirees and also survey contacts who had invalid or bad email addresses (1,296), the survey response rate is 27.3% (2,615 out of 9,596). The sampling frame was comprised of seven lists of geoscience faculty: AGI list, On the Cutting Edge participant list, two-year college geoscience faculty list, Texas two-year college geoscience faculty list, SAGE 2YC college list, On the Cutting Edge Early Career list, and email list of atmospheric science or meteorology faculty updated from 2012 based on the American Meteorological society website. Duplicates were removed in compiling these lists.


Egger, A.E., Viskupic, K., and Iverson, E.R. (2019). Results of the National Geoscience Faculty Survey (2004-2016). (Acrobat (PDF) 6.1MB Dec12 19). National Association of Geoscience Teachers, Northfield, MN. 82 p.

The purpose of this report is to summarize the responses to the core questions of the National Geoscience Faculty Survey. The report will be useful to researchers interested in related studies, education stakeholders interested in understanding the current state of the discipline, and future development of national surveys. All questions described in this report were asked in the 2016 survey, and many were asked in prior surveys administered in 2012, 2009, and 2004. The report does not include responses to any questions that were asked in pre-2016 surveys that were discontinued.

Publications and Presentations

This list includes publications related to the National Survey results.

  • Beane, R., Altermatt, E.R., Iverson, E.R., & Macdonald, R.H. (2020). Design and impact of the National Workshop for Early Career Geoscience Faculty. Journal of Geoscience Education.
  • Riihimaki, C. A., & Viskupic, K. (2019). Motivators and inhibitors to change: Why and how geoscience faculty modify their course content and teaching methods. Journal of Geoscience Education, 1-18.
  • Gamage, K., McFadden, R. R., Macdonald, R. H. (2020). Development of Students' Skills in Introductory Geoscience Courses: A Comparison of Self-reported Teaching Practices at Two-Year and Four-Year Institutions. Journal of Geoscience Education,
  • McFadden, R. R., Viskupic, K., Egger, A. E. (2019). Faculty self-reported use of data analysis and quantitative skills in undergraduate geoscience courses. Journal of Geoscience Education.
  • Viskupic, K., Egger, A. E., McFadden, R. R., Schmitz, M. D. (2020). Comparing desired workforce skills and reported teaching practices to model students' experiences in undergraduate geoscience programs. Journal of Geoscience Education,
  • Soltis, N. A., McNeal, K. S., Forbes, C. T., & Lally, D. (2019). The relationship between active learning, course innovation and teaching Earth system thinking: A structural equation modeling approach. Geosphere.
  • Beane, R., McNeal, K. S., & Macdonald, R. H. (2019). Probing the National Geoscience Faculty Survey for reported use of practices that support inclusive learning environments in undergraduate courses. Journal of Geoscience Education, 67(4), 427-445. (Full article - open access)
  • Egger, A. E. (2019). The Role of Introductory Geoscience Courses in Preparing Teachers—And All Students—For the Future: Are We Making the Grade? GSA Today, 29. (Abstract)
  • Lally, D., Forbes, C. T., McNeal, K. S., & Soltis, N. A. (2019). National Geoscience Faculty Survey 2016: Prevalence of systems thinking and scientific modeling learning opportunities. Journal of Geoscience Education, 67(2), 174-191.
  • Manduca, C. A., Iverson, E. R., Luxenberg, M., Macdonald, R. H., McConnell, D. A., Mogk, D. W., & Tewksbury, B. J. (2017). Improving undergraduate STEM education: The efficacy of discipline-based professional development. Science Advances, 3(2). (Abstract)
  • Macdonald, R. H., Manduca, C. A., Mogk, D. W., & Tewksbury, B. J. (2005). Teaching Methods in Undergraduate Geoscience Courses: Results of the 2004 On the Cutting Edge Survey of U.S. Faculty. Journal of Geoscience Education, 53(3), 237-252.


  • For the 2004, 2009, 2012, and 2016 surveys,On the Cutting Edge , sponsored by the National Association of Geoscience Teachers (NAGT) were supported by the NSF Division of Undergraduate Education grants DUE-0127310, DUE-0127141, DUE-0127257, DUE-0127018, DUE-0618482, DUE-0618725, DUE-0618533, DUE-1022680, DUE-1022776, DUE-1022844, and DUE-1022910.
  • For the 2016 survey, InTeGrate, NSF-funded STEM Talent Expansion program supported by a NSF collaboration between the Directorates for Education and Human Resources (EHR) and Geosciences (GEO) under grant DUE - 1125331.
  • For the 2016 survey, SAGE 2YC Faculty as Change Agents, supported by NSF DUE-1525593,1524605,1524623, and 1524800.
  • Raymond Y. Chu, Julius Dollison, and Roman Czujko of the Statistical Research Center of the American Institute of Physics helped develop the 2004 and 2009 survey instruments, administer these surveys, and did the initial analysis of the results.


  • Diane Ebert-May and colleagues in biology provided an unpublished copy of a similar survey developed for biology from which the 2004 leadership team benefited.
  • Staff including Nick Claudy and Christopher Keane from the American Geological Institute worked through permissions to provide the initial set of geoscience faculty email addresses.
  • John McLaughlin, the On the Cutting Edge external evaluator, for contributions to the development of the 2004 and 2009 survey instruments.
  • Experts from Professional Data Analysts, Inc., including Michael Luxenberg, Becky Lien, Eric Graalum, and Mao Thao for work on the analysis of the 2009 survey and development and analysis of the 2012 and 2016 survey.
  • Lija Greenseid, Greenseid Consulting Group, LLC who facilitated survey design and implementation and contributed to interpretation of data analysis (2012 and 2016).
  • On the Cutting Edge PIs: R. Heather Macdonald, Cathryn A. Manduca, David W. Mogk, Barbara J. Tewksbury, Rachel Beane, David McConnell, Katryn Wiese, and Michael Wysession

Disclaimer: Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this website are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

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