Initial Publication Date: July 23, 2015

Emerging Theme Workshops

Workshop Goals | Developing an Action Plan | Resources |

Geoscience education is in the midst of rapid change as research on learning provides new guidance for how we teach, as the revolution in understanding the Earth system changes what we teach, and as information technology provides new opportunities for teaching and research. Emerging theme workshops move important new topics from an initial stage of early activity by isolated leaders in the field toward widespread implementation in undergraduate geoscience courses. Topics are chosen where 1) it is clear that incorporation of the emerging topic into geoscience courses is important and will significantly enhance student understanding about the Earth and 2) a case can be made that a workshop will have a substantial impact in moving the content or pedagogy into broader use by geoscience faculty. Geoscientists and educators are invited to recommend topics.

The goal of emerging themes workshops is to catalyze rapid forward motion in geoscience education by bringing together individuals who are making significant contributions to enable synergistic collective action. They form the starting point of a multi-year trajectory of development, with the goal at the end of the process being wide dissemination of information and materials needed for broad inclusion of new content or pedagogy in the undergraduate geoscience curriculum. Each topic develops in a unique way that reflects the leaders in the field, the nature of the topic and its evolution, and community needs and interests of the time. A key aspect of emerging theme workshops is the development of a plan leading to broad implementation of this topic and the initiation of activities implementing the plan.

Workshop Goals

All emerging themes workshops share these specific goals:
  • Enable a broader, collective understanding of the theme by engaging participants in sharing their expertise on the emerging theme.
  • Document the state of the art: what is currently happening at the forefront of this topic? What are the best examples of effective practice in geoscience education?
  • Develop a vision for forward progress on this topic that results in broad implementation in geoscience education: What are the barriers, missing pieces, or actions needed to make broad adoption possible? What are the opportunities? What are the next steps?
  • Develop an action plan that brings together the talents of the participants, builds on current opportunities, and addresses the critical needs identified for forward progress. This plan may involve use of a one-day workshop at a professional meeting, topical sessions at professional meetings, and/or a "Phase 2" workshop to engage a broader audience in an activity addressing critical needs.
  • Take all needed actions at the workshop to support implementation of the action plan (e.g. establish needed communication pathways, identify barriers to progress, establish reasonable time lines and appropriate individual responsibilities, define leadership and responsibility for ensuring progress).
  • Produce products for dissemination via the On the Cutting Edge website that support widening implementation in the geosciences.

Developing an Action Plan

Action plans that move an emerging theme forward can include elements that disseminate information about the topic, develop, collect or disseminate teaching materials or other resources, or build new partnerships. For example, the workshop or its follow-on activities could produce

  • Compendia of examples of how content is currently taught
  • Tutorials, workshops, or short courses on the topic
  • Reference lists
  • Professional society sessions
  • Journal articles or topical volumes
  • Goals and syllabi collection
  • Teaching resources
  • On-line classroom materials
  • Identification of priority issues or needs
  • Identification and recruitment of key stakeholders
  • Directed outreach to other interested people or groups

Resources Available through On the Cutting Edge

The On the Cutting Edge Workshop series provides resources that can assist workshop participants in implementing strategic plans.
  • Stage 2 Emerging Theme Workshops These workshops involving 40 - 60 people are intended to provide an opportunity for a larger group to work on issues or needs that will enable an emerging theme to move into the mainstream. For example, a stage 2 workshop could be used to develop instructional or informational materials needed to enable a topic to be incorporated broadly in courses. Alternately, a stage 2 workshop could be used to launch a broader dissemination effort. One Stage 2 Emerging Theme Workshop is offered each year; workshop participants can propose a topic for evaluation.
  • Workshops at professional meetings These workshops would generally be one-day workshops that could involve 25 to 60 people. They are particularly well suited to broadening the audience for an emerging topic or generating intial interest in a topic.
  • Course Design, Early Career, and/or Preparing for an Academic Career workshops provide a mechanism for disseminating information to a broader audience. Discussions with the PI team may provide avenues for bringing selected resources or ideas to these groups.
  • On the Cutting Edge workshop websites and email lists provide on-line mechanisms for on-going communication and dissemination:
    • Emerging theme workshop email lists can be opened up for participation by the broader community.
    • Contribute tools enable on-going development of thematic resource collections on particular topics.
    • Course Goals and Syllabus Database allows development of a collection of goals and syllabi for a particular topic or course.
    • Teaching Materials Database allows collection of faculty exercises, labs and other activities for a particular topic.
    • Other types of web-based information can be developed and disseminated by the workshop participants in collaboration with the workshop conveners.

Workshop Planning