GER at a teaching-focused university

Heather Lehto, Angelo State University

My career in GER started when I was working on my Ph.D. I met Len Vacher who was a faculty member at my university working in GER. Through conversations with him and listening to students talk about the modules he was assessing for the Spreadsheets Across the Curriculum program I realized I was very interested in this type of research. I decided to split my Ph.D. research into two different topics: volcano seismology and GER. I had no idea where to start, but I had an idea I wanted to test. I found it incredibly difficult to find papers in science education research because there were too many different sources and subtopics. The amount of material was overwhelming. I started with the Journal of Geoscience Education and then branched out to other science ed journals and did finally get a good study put together. However, I still feel as though I am missing a lot of the seminal papers and so I have slowly been creating a growing list by talking to peers at GER events and through the SERC website.
I have also found it difficult to wear two hats in my research. All of my research since starting at my university has been in geophysics and not in GER. This has mostly bee because I have only undergraduate student researchers and they generally want to do more traditional research projects and because of the heavy 4/4 teaching load that I have. I have found a new and important topic that needs to be addressed at my institution and others; however, this study will require a qualitative method which I am unfamiliar with. I began taking short courses on qualitative methods at the Earth Educators Rendezvous last year and will be using this year's event to find collaborators with experience in qualitative methods and in cognitive science.
The most difficult part for me has been finding the time to plan and run studies as well as finding primary literature and collaborators. This has been helped immensely by the strong push towards building a GER community and the Earth Educators Rendezvous specifically. My advice to my younger self would be to keep finding new opportunities and to learn to clone myself.