Workshop Overview

Note: This workshop has already taken place.

This workshop provides opportunities to develop our understanding of best practices in teaching about complex systems, in general and within the context of geoscience. We will draw on cognitive science and educational research as well as the experience of geoscience educators.

The goals of the workshop are to:

  • Expand our understanding of the cognitive underpinnings that support learning about complex systems
  • Share successful strategies for teaching complex systems, within and beyond the geosciences
  • Develop a sophisticated model for assessing students' understanding of complex systems by answering the question, "What does evidence of systems thinking look like?"
  • Collect examples of specific teaching activities and assessments related to learning about complex systems
  • Create a network of leaders in science education, cognitive science, and education research who can lead the community to an understanding of best practices in teaching complex systems

Workshop activities will include presentations, large and small group discussions, and planning/writing sessions. Instructional materials and other information will be organized and compiled as collections of digital resources for use in science education throughout the world.


The workshop will begin at 5 PM on Sunday, April 18, 2010 and will end after dinner on Tuesday, April 20, 2010. Participants must attend all sessions.


Participants are expected to:

  • Contribute a narrative essay about their experience/expertise related to teaching and learning about complex systems, to be posted on the workshop website.
  • Contribute two items that demonstrate effective strategies for teaching about complex systems (teaching activity, course syllabus, assessment or reference)
  • Prepare in advance for workshop discussions via readings, writings, discussion or other activities developed by workshop leaders.
  • Participate fully in the entire workshop.
  • Share what they learn with colleagues.


The operational costs of the workshop as well as room, board, and workshop materials are covered by a grant from the NSF Division of Undergraduate Education (DUE-0618482). Participants or their home institutions must provide transportation to and from the workshop. In cases of unusual hardship, we will be able to offer a few small stipends to help defray travel costs (application deadline February 14). For more information about travel funds please visit the workshop stipends page.

Application and Selection Criteria

Your application must be submitted by February 1, 2010. The workshop is limited to 30 participants. The final list of participants will be established with the goal of assembling a group with expertise in geoscience education, cognitive science, and the teaching of complex systems (both in geoscience and in other STEM disciplines), as well as a spectrum of institutional settings and teaching experiences, and a diversity of participants. Preference will be given to applicants who hold faculty positions at colleges and universities. Applicants will be notified of selection in mid February. For more information visit the general information for workshop participants page.


The workshop will be held at Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota. Participants will be housed in a hotel and eat meals on campus and in town.

For More Information

Please contact Carol Ormand (, 608-213-1618).