Teaching Oceanography

Oceans cover about 70% of the globe and have a major influence on all of Earth's systems. Oceanography offers a fascinating context to connect science with human dimensions through the study of current events and issues such as hazards, pollution, energy resources, and more. Dive into the resources below for exciting ways to incorporate oceanography and its multi-disciplinary facets into your classroom and laboratory.

Jump down to: Course Design & Pedagogy | Resource Collections | Special Topics | Workshops & Events | Get Involved

Designing an Effective Oceanography Course

1. Set goals

Explore example student learning outcomes from your colleagues. Learn more about setting effective course goals in the Course Design Tutorial. You can also explore course goals from others' oceanography courses using the syllabi available in the course collection.

2. Consider assessment options

Aligning 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.

3. Select pedagogies and teaching activities

The resource collections below are organized to provide a rich set of materials to draw from in constructing the specific set of learning experiences you want for your students. You may also want to explore specific pedagogies to incorporate into your classroom such as those listed below. Learn more about teaching methods from the On the Cutting Edge teaching methods module.
  • Teaching Geoscience in the Field provides students important data-gathering, observation, and real world relevancy experiences. (Review this list of field trip ideas.)
  • Teaching with Data, Simulations, and Models allows students to work with specific data sets to understand aspects of the ocean system and can be used in conjunction with the data-rich classroom and lab activities as well as web tools available in the datasets and tools collection.
  • Undergraduate Research provides students with opportunities to collaborate with faculty on actual research projects, learning about both a particular topic in a field and the research process in general.
  • Using an Earth-Systems Approach introduces students to concepts and resources centered on space, air, water, land, life, and human dimensions.
  • Learn more about how to use GeoMapApp, a free Java tool that can be used to explore a wide range of datasets such as digital elevation maps, earthquake data, geochemistry, plate motions, sediment thicknesses, and research cruise tracks.

Resource Collections

Once you've identified the core learning goals for your course, you can use them to focus your search for relevant materials in our resource collections. The materials listed below reflect the contributions of faculty members from across the country.

As preparations for the 2013 workshop continue, we will be soliciting materials from workshop participants and community members and efforts at the workshop will go into creating new resources that can add to the following collections. Watch for new additions to this site in the coming months.

Special Topics

  • This set of oceanography teaching activities, from Teaching Quantitative Skills in Geoscience, is aimed at strengthening students' quantitative skills and literacy using real-world applications.
  • A set of Earth System Science learning resources is available from Starting Point: Teaching Entry Level Geoscience, and includes a list of teaching and data resources from a variety of institutions and organizations.
  • Hurricanes, from the On the Cutting Edge Hazards module, offers a collection of data and informational resources and activities that focus on the science behind hurricanes as well as the human dimension of hurricanes.
  • Learn about algal blooms that produce Red Tides, from Microbial Life Educational Resources, including the causes and effects of this phenomenon.
  • Explore the causes of the Gulf of Mexico Dead Zone, from Microbial Life Educational Resources, and learn more about what can be done to remediate the problem.
  • Investigate a key question about Early Earth: When did oceans form on Earth?, from On the Cutting Edge's Early Earth module, by learning the importance of the question, a brief discussion of the hypotheses, how to incorporate the topic into the classroom, and resources for further information.

Workshops and Events

  • 2013 Workshop - Teaching Oceanography: This workshop was held June 18-20, 2013, with optional field trips on June 17 and 21, in San Francisco, CA. The purpose of this workshop was to bring together instructors of oceanography to explore ways to effectively teach this topic in undergraduate Earth Science courses. Important results of the workshop were a reviewed collection of teaching activities, insights on teaching methodology, the development of classroom resources that take advantage of cutting edge technology, and a community network of instructors who continue work on oceanography after the workshop.
  • 2005 Workshop: Teaching the Ocean System: This workshop was held July 6-9, 2005 at the University of Washington in Seattle. See the entire workshop program, with links to each of the PowerPoint presentations given at the workshop.

Get Involved

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