Workshop Overview

a student writing in a field notebook
Many faculty teach introductory courses as part of their repertoires; this workshop will bring together teachers from a wide variety of institutional settings and backgrounds with the common goal of sharing ideas about improving the pedagogy and content of our introductory geoscience courses.

This workshop will cover a range of introductory earth science courses, such as physical and historical geology, environmental science, oceanography, natural hazards, as well as courses that follow a regional or topical theme.

Goals and Format

During this 4-day workshop, we will explore the following topics
  • What are the ways in which an introductory course is uniquely positioned to play a critical role in students' undergraduate experiences? How can we maximize the impact of our introductory courses?
  • Geoscience topics have ongoing relevance in students' lives. How can we convey that relevance and leave students with a "take home message" that stays with them?
  • How does the overall design of a course relate to its appeal and effectiveness? What are some approaches to designing a new course or breathing new life into an existing one?
  • What types of innovative teaching methods and approaches would be useful for our courses?
  • Every course has its challenges. What shall we do with huge courses, courses with no lab component, or courses in urban settings with nary an outcrop in sight?
  • How can we expand the reach of our introductory courses? What are some strategies to reach out toward under-represented groups and expand the diversity of students who enroll in our courses?
  • How have other faculty approached challenges in their courses? During group discussions, networking time and a demo fair, you'll have opportunities to hear about ideas others have used successfully.

The workshop format will include plenary talks, large and small group discussions, activity demonstrations, an evening of demonstrations for the lab and computer, and blocks of time for writing and planning changes to your own course.

All participants will contribute to development of the online collection of introductory teaching activities for the classroom, lab or field. In doing so, workshop attendees will consider what makes effective activities and assignments and will review and make suggestions for improving submitted materials.


The first workshop event will take place at 5 pm on Monday, July 14, 2008. The workshop will end at dinner on Thursday, July 17. Participants must attend all sessions.


By applying to the workshop, participants agree to do the following if accepted for the workshop:

  • contribute one course description to the introductory course database prior to the workshop
  • contribute two activities to the activity collections prior to the workshop
  • prepare in advance for workshop discussions via readings, discussion or other activities developed by workshop leaders
  • participate fully in the entire workshop
  • use and review at least one new teaching activity after the workshop.

Eligibility and application instructions

The workshop is limited to 100 participants. The final list of participants will be established with the goal of assembling a group that includes expertise in exciting, innovative teaching of introductory geoscience, as well as those whose participation will have a significant impact on introductory geoscience courses or teaching methods. We also endeavor to select participants representing a wide range of experiences, educational environments, and specialties.

Applicants for this workshop must hold a faculty position at a two- or four-year college or university and teach an introductory geoscience course. We welcome applications from all academic ranks but cannot accept applications from pre-college teachers. Preference is given to applicants from the United States.


On-site costs

There is no fee to attend this workshop, however the travel costs are the responsibility of each participant and must be paid for by participants or their institutions. Our National Science Foundation grant provides funding for the operational costs of the workshop, food and lodging. To be supported by these funds, a participant must be either a US citizen, a permanent resident, or in the employ of a US institution. If you don't meet these requirements and are interested in participating in this workshop at your own expense, please contact the workshop conveners.


All participants or their home institutions must provide transportation to and from the workshop. The workshop will be held on the campuses of St. Olaf College and Carleton College and in Northfield, MN.

Participants must make their own way to Northfield in time for the first workshop event at 5 pm on Monday, July 14, 2008. The workshop will be over on Thursday evening, July 17, and participants will return home on Friday, July 18.

A shuttle service to and from the airport will be arranged for you based on the travel information that you submit to us via the registration form. This shuttle service will be provided for you free of charge. Unfortunately, we will not be able to cover the costs of rental cars or personal taxi service.

We will be able to offer small travel stipends to participants from institutions unable to cover travel costs. The deadline for application for travel stipends is March 21, 2008.

Lodging and Meals

Participants will be housed in air-conditioned dorm rooms on the St. Olaf campus. Participants will have the option of staying in a private room or a shared room. The SERC staff will make the lodging reservations for workshop participants.

Breakfasts and lunches will be served in the St. Olaf dining halls, and dinners will be served in a variety of locations.

Further Information

Contact Cathy Manduca, Barb Tewksbury, or Heather Macdonald

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