Initial Publication Date: June 15, 2022

On-ramps to more effective teaching in tectonics: quick-start guides to strategies for actively engaging students in the classroom to improve learning

Philllip Resor, Wesleyan University
Barbara Tewksbury, Hamilton College
Jennifer Wenner, University of Wisconsin Oshkosh
The On-Ramps writing team*


The landscape of college and university teaching in the geosciences has changed over the past 20 years. Research has documented 1) that faculty in the U.S. now spend less time lecturing and more time actively engaging students in the classroom, and 2) that active engagement is more common in geoscience classrooms than it is in biology, chemistry, physics, or engineering. The web sites of Teach the Earth and On the Cutting Edge have thousands of web pages of resources for geoscience faculty who want to more actively engage their students in the classroom. But what if you want to incorporate more active learning but aren't sure where to start or how these techniques might work in your courses? Or what if you are looking for new approaches or fresh ideas to add to techniques that you already use?

On-Ramps are quick-start guides designed to bring you up to speed in effective strategies for engaging students more actively in the classroom. Each 2-page On-Ramp focuses on a particular teaching strategy, rather than on how to teach a particular topic. The current On-Ramps cover interactive lecture, brainstorming, concept sketches, jigsaws, discussions, quantitative skill-building, just-in-time approaches, case studies, and re-thinking course coverage and linearity. Each On-Ramp includes a simple example that illustrates the strategy, why the technique is valuable, implementation tips, additional examples and modifications, and links to activities, supporting research, and other resources. On-Ramps will be available at the presentation and can also be downloaded as pdfs from

On-Ramps originated from the 2018 community vision report to US National Science Foundation (NSF) on Challenges and Opportunities for Research in Tectonics, and through conversations that began at the 2018 Structural Geology and Tectonics Forum (SGTF) at Arizona State University. We hope that this presentation at the 2022 SGTF will help foster further conversation and future actions to bring more active learning into the tectonics classroom. Development of the initial set of On-Ramps was supported with a grant from the NSF. The On-Ramps writing team* is a group of geoscientists at a variety of career levels with specialties across the range of subdisciplines that regularly address tectonic problems.
*On-Ramps writing team: abstract authors plus Kim Blisniuk, Cailey Condit, Anne Egger, Kyle Fredrick, Florian Fusseis, Jamie Kirkpatrick, Sara Mana, Kendra Murray, Beth Pratt-Sitaula, Christine Regalla, and Carolyn Tewksbury-Christle



Session 3: Teaching Innovations in SG&T