Cutting Edge Resources for STEM Faculty

(STEM = Science + Technology + Engineering + Mathematics)

On the Cutting Edge is an NSF-sponsored comprehensive faculty development project for geoscience educators. It combines a program of faculty development workshops with the development of online pedagogical and educational resources. While the examples in the online resources are primarily taken from the geosciences, the pedagogies are appropriate for teaching in any of the STEM disciplines (and in many cases, beyond). Here are links to Cutting Edge resources that may be of particularly high interest to STEM educators in fields other than the geosciences.

Jump down to Enhancing Teaching and Learning * Managing Your Career * Interdisciplinary Science

Enhancing Teaching and Learning

  • Affective Domain
    • The affective domain includes factors such as student motivation, attitudes, perceptions and values. As science faculty, we naturally emphasize the cognitive domain in our teaching. Yet the affective domain can significantly enhance, inhibit or even prevent student learning. Educators can increase their effectiveness by considering the affective domain in planning courses, delivering lectures and activities, and assessing student learning.
  • Assessment of Learning
    • What we teach and what students learn are related, but they are not the same. Assessing what your students are learning is an essential component of successful teaching. This module includes a set of pages on a wide variety of assessment tools and information on how to design and conduct educational research projects.
    Participants in the 2007 workshop for Early Career Geoscience Faculty session on interactive lectures and in-class exercises create density-layered fluids. Photo by Carol Ormand.
  • Course Design
    • A well-designed course combines high-level disciplinary content with appropriately selected pedagogical methods. This online course design tutorial walks you step by step through the design of an effective STEM course: articulating clear, measurable learning goals; choosing or designing educational activities to support those goals; selecting pedagogies appropriate for those activities (in any size class); and assessing student learning.
  • Data, Simulations and Models
    • Today's science education reaches well beyond traditional teaching tools. With the addition of computers in many science classrooms and laboratories, faculty have unprecedented opportunity to create innovative learning experiences by bringing real-world data sets and models and simulations of science processes into the classroom. This site provides resources to help faculty use these resources effectively and easily, by providing access to teaching materials, tips from the classroom and literature about the supporting pedagogy. While the examples are taken from the field of geoscience, the page on pedagogy is broadly applicable.
  • Metacognition
    • An awareness of the learning process can improve learning dramatically (e.g. How People Learn , NRC 2000). Yet students are rarely taught how to develop this awareness. We can help our students to improve their learning by incorporating metacognition into our courses: by having them think about their thinking and by helping them to become aware of and monitor their learning strategies.
  • Online Teaching
    • Colleges and universities are increasing their online offerings as a means of reaching a wider audience, offering a convenient course format for part-time students, connecting students with faculty who may not share the same campus, concentrating students in specialized courses with traditionally low enrollment, and controlling costs. Regardless of the format, topic or setting, many types of online classrooms share successful strategies and common challenges. Although these pages arose from a workshop on teaching geoscience online, the resources are broadly applicable to online teaching and learning.
  • Service Learning
    • Service–learning energizes and engages your students to practice the concepts and skills you want them to learn by addressing problems that are important to your community. Their learning takes place in the context of the local region that many of you call home. Student retention can improve because of this community link. Students own their observations and data and can be more easily led to quantitative analysis. Although these pages arose from a workshop on service learning in the geosciences, most of the resources are broadly applicable.
  • Visualizations
  • Web Design
    • Effective use of the web can enhance student learning in a multitude of ways, from the incorporation of real data sets in STEM courses to instantaneous feedback via online quizzes. This site addresses how to begin the process of putting resources on the web, how to design the educational content of those resources and how to design and build the actual resource.
Steve Wojtal leads a research proposal review session at the 2007 workshop for Early Career Faculty in the Geosciences. Photo by Carol Ormand.

Managing Your Career

Interdisciplinary Science

  • Climate Change
    • Quaternary climate change is one of the most complex, yet relevant issues facing researchers and educators today. Not only is the topic scientifically complex, but there are economic, social and political ramifications as well. This site will allow educators to locate and use the best resources for teaching about Earth's climate system and the changing climate over the past one million years. Here you will find climate data, visualizations, teaching activities and case studies. By learning from past climate changes, we can apply this to present-day and future climate shifts.
  • Complex Systems
    • The study of complex systems encompasses a broad range of topics, including cycles, feedback loops, and chaotic behavior. The dynamic, non-linear behavior inherent in complex systems poses particular challenges for teaching and learning. This site includes an introduction to complex systems, focusing on the fundamental concepts, and a set of pages about promising pedagogical approaches to teaching complex systems thinking.
    Mining smelter tower in Anaconda, MT. Much of the smelting operations were moved from Butte to Anaconda because of air quaility issues in Butte. There are several contaminated 'hot spots' around the smelter, and arsenic has impacted the soils in a hundred mile radius around Anaconda. Photo by Steve Peters.
  • Geology and Human Health
    • Geology contributes in many ways to human health issues - in water and air quality and quantity, natural and anthropogenic health hazards, as a controlling factor in the epidemiology of water- and air-borne diseases, and in the development of public health policy. The interdisciplinary field of "medical geology" is therefore of increasing importance in education and to society at large. These resources may be of especially high interest to anyone in biology or pre-med programs looking for real-world examples of how societal choices are affecting human health.
  • Public Policy
    • We teach our students to think as scientists, but that is only half the job. Sound science also needs to translate into public policy. Science and public policy should be integrated, not only in the government but also in our classrooms. This website provides ideas and resources for educators to add elements of public policy to existing geoscience courses, to create new learning materials that relate earth science and policy, or to see how policy issues can be taught across the geoscience curriculum. With its strong focus on geoscience-related policy issues, this site is probably most useful to anyone teaching environmental science.
  • Rates and Time
    • According to the Mathematics Association of America, a quantitatively literate citizen can use mathematics to solve real-world problems (MMA, 1998) (more info) . To achieve that goal, students need practice. The activities available here encompass a range of examples of geologic rates and time scales.