Initial Publication Date: October 11, 2013

Undergraduate Research in Earth Science Classes: Engaging Students in the First Two Years

August 10-13, 2014
Montana State University, Bozeman MT

This workshop has already taken place. For more information about what happened at the workshop, please see presentations and other materials linked from the Workshop Program.

This workshop is designed to explore the many ways that authentic research experiences can be embedded in introductory Earth Science courses. This follows the recent recommendations from the President's Council of Advisors on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (PCAST, 2012 (Acrobat (PDF) 5.3MB Feb8 17)): Advocate and provide support for replacing standard laboratory courses with discovery-based research courses. Access to Earth data, information technology, instrumentation, field experiences and new understanding of how students learn (e.g., through Discipline-Based Education Research, NRC 2012) provide unprecedented opportunities for students to engage authentic research at early stages in their careers. Early exposure to research experiences has shown to be effective in the recruitment of students, improved retention and persistence in degree programs, motivation for students to learn and increase self-efficacy, improved attitudes and values about science, and overall increased student success. Please share your experiences in promoting student research in the first two years in your own courses and departments.


David Mogk, Montana State University- Bozeman
Michael Wysession, Washington University in St Louis
Allison Beauregard, Northwest Florida State College
Linda Reinen, Pomona College
Kathy Surpless, Trinity University

SERC Staff:

John McDaris, Science Education Resource Center
Cailin Huyck Orr, Science Education Resource Center
Kristin O'Connell, Science Education Resource Center

Workshop Program and Tentative Schedule

Workshop activities will include presentations, demonstrations of teaching activities, large and small group discussions, and working group sessions. Instructional materials and other information will be organized and compiled as collections of digital resources for use across the geoscience curriculum.

Tentative Schedule:

Sunday, August 10: Travel day and evening reception and introductory session.

Monday-Wednesday August 11-13: Workshop sessions on the Montana State University campus.

Pre- and/or Post Meeting Field Trips: Field trips will be organized to visit local areas where active student research projects are underway, hikes to popular geologic locations surrounding the MSU campus and/or a regional field trip to Yellowstone National Park

Teaching Activity Development and Review

The On the Cutting Edge program develops extensive collections of instructional resources, references, and teaching activities. Workshop participants will be expected to contribute to:

  • Development of a collection of resources (journal articles, websites, reports, books) that inform "best practices" in the design, development, and implementation of research experiences for students in the first two years of the undergraduate curriculum;
  • Collections of case studies, models, and examples of research experiences that have been implemented in lower division courses in the Earth Sciences in a number of different instructional settings;
  • Review of teaching activities; On the Cutting Edge is conducting a comprehensive review of all our teaching collections. This process began with the Teaching Mineralogy, Petrology, and Geochemistry workshop in 2011. The goal of this review is to develop a comprehensive and coherent set of teaching activities that will serve the geoscience education community for years to come. Participants in this workshop will contribute to this effort by reviewing submitted undergraduate research activities, conducting a "gap analysis" to identify resources that are needed in this part of the collection, and submitting new activities to the collection.

Related Resources

There are many dimensions to undergraduate research in the Earth Sciences. In addition to the forthcoming workshop on undergraduate research in the first two years, check out these additional resources:

  • Using Data in the Classroom portal-- a collection of over 700 sources of online Earth data sources, including data tools, activities, examples, and pedagogic resources;
  • Integrating Research and Education-- a series of online modules that investigate multiple strategies and tutorials that demonstrate effective ways to translate modern scientific methods and findings into classroom experiences for students.
  • Undergraduate Research with Students from Two-year Colleges-- As more students, especially students from traditionally underrepresented minorities, begin their undergraduate education at two-year colleges, it becomes increasingly important that they have research experiences in their time at those institutions.

Partnership Workshop

This workshop is offered in partnership with InTeGrate --Interdisciplinary Teaching of Geosciences for a Sustainable Future. InTeGrate supports the teaching of geoscience in the context of societal issues both within geoscience courses and across the undergraduate curriculum. The goal is to develop a citizenry and workforce that can address environmental and resource issues facing our society.


For questions or more information, please contact Dave Mogk or Michael Wysession.

This workshop is part of the On the Cutting Edge professional development program for current and future geoscience faculty, and is sponsored by the National Association of Geoscience Teachers with funding provided by NAGT, and a grant from the National Science Foundation - Division of Undergraduate Education and other contributing sponsors.

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