Teaching with Data, Simulations, and Models

There are many effective strategies to bring real-world data sets and models, and simulations of geoscience processes into the classroom. This site provides resources to help faculty use these resources effectively and easily, and contains access to teaching materials and tips from the classroom and literature about the supporting pedagogy. Teaching with data, simulations, and models in the geosciences can increase many facets of student success, including: improving computational thinking and scientific computing abilities, understanding and working with data (including recognizing irregularities), visualizing data, designing and/or working with models and simulations, formulating and testing questions, practice thinking like an expert, improving research skills, and gaining skills to be a competitive graduate.Explore Teaching Quantitative Skills
in the Geosciences

Designing Courses and Programs

Program Strategies

Students are more successful with using data, simulations, and models when they are able to practice multiple times during their academic career. The Matrix Approach can help facilitate a department conversation on how to incorporate quantitative reasoning skills and sequencing courses at the program level. The ideas about teaching quantitative skills in the geosciences can help situate data, simulations, and models in your program.

Course Strategies

Learn more about setting effective course goals in the Course Design Tutorial. Align your assessment strategies with the goals of your course is an essential part of the design process. You can learn more about assessment in the section about Assessing Student Learning in the Course Design Tutorial and through our module on Observing and Assessing Student Learning. Browse ideas about the different approaches that Teaching with MATLAB participants have on using data, simulations, and models in the classroom.

Selected Pedagogical Approaches

Resource Collections

  • Teaching activities including course labs, problem sets, projects and more. This collection contains classroom ready material with supporting instructor information. You may also find Ideas for teaching from the 2008 workshop useful.
  • Bringing MARGINS Research into the Classroom is a data-rich activity collection that help students work with directly with the scientific highlights of the MARGINS program. Activities were written in teams that include science experts and education experts to present the best data and teaching techniques.
  • Additional Resources for data, model, and visualization sources.

Special Topics

Workshops and Events

  • 2015 Teaching Geoscience with MATLAB
    This workshop was designed to explore how teaching with MATLAB can enhance the student learning environment in undergraduate Earth Science and related courses. The materials that were presented were linked from the workshop program. Also explore your colleagues' thoughts about challenges and opportunities to teaching with MATLAB in the workshop synthesis.
  • 2015 Student Learning About Critical Earth Issues Through the Use of Large Online Digital Data Sets This workshop aimed to help instructors of undergraduate classes develop classroom activities, demonstrations, and research opportunities on topics of current societal relevance and interest using new online resources of geoscience data. These activities will be added to the extensive Cutting Edge online teaching activities collection.
  • 2008 Teaching with New Geoscience Tools: Visualizations, Models, and Online Data
    This workshop brought together geoscientists and educators to look at how we currently take advantage of these new tools in undergraduate education, to look at newly emerging opportunities, and to consider what learning science has to say about teaching with these tools.
  • 2003 GSA Contributions: Using Data to Teach Earth Processes An illustrated community discussion at the 2003 annual meeting of the Geological Society of Americas. This session was designed to allow the entire GSA community to come together to share and discuss how we use data to help students learn concepts, think scientifically, and develop their skills in making interpretations and communicating conclusions. We invite contributions from throughout the geosciences involving all kinds of data in the full spectrum of approaches to helping students of all ages learn geoscience.
  • 2002 Using Global Data Sets in Teaching Earth Processes This one-day workshop at the American Geophysical Union Meeting was designed for faculty who are interested in increasing their use of inquiry-based approaches employing on-line global datasets to teach Earth processes.

Get Involved

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