The Role of the GER Division in Promoting a Community of Practice
The Geoscience Education Research (GER) division of the NAGT was established to help create a community of practice for GER (Lukes et al., 2015). Responses (91) to a survey we conducted in Fall 2014 helped division leaders identify ways in which the division can support the development of a community of practice for GER. "Opportunities to network with other GERs" was identified as an important perceived need within our community. In the first two years of the division, we have created a listserv that has grown to 296 members, established a monthly newsletter, and created article, opportunity, and "Researcher in the Spotlight" features within that newsletter. Articles showcase findings and methodologies that are of potential interest to the GER community. "Spotlights" highlight the career and research of a professional in the field, and ask that person to share GER articles that have impacted their research. The GER Division meeting at GSA 2015 provided an opportunity for community members to discuss their research interests with others one-on-one during a speed dating type activity.
The GER Division has facilitated several professional development opportunities. The Executive Committee chaired a very successful session on GER Methods at the 2015 Annual Fall Meeting of GSA. Presenters were asked to share their presentations on the GER division website (http://nagt.org/nagt/divisions/geoed/methods) to provide an archive that researchers can use as needed. In March 2016, the GER division supported an AGI/AGU Heads and Chairs webinar (http://www.americangeosciences.org/workforce/webinars/benefits-and-challenges-having-geoscience-education-research-faculty-your) to highlight how geoscience department leaders can facilitate the professional success of GER faculty. In 2016, we will host a GSA session focused on methodological decision making within quantitative, qualitative and mixed methods research. While these steps addressed the initial demand from our members, it is clear that additional forums are needed to develop professional development resources for our community.
Based on the division survey and more recent community needs survey, the GER Executive Committee members have identified several short and long-term goals for the Division as it works to support the scholarly growth of its members at all stages of their career. Of particular emphasis at this time is providing support to the geoscience community for adopting effective practices to support tenure and promotion for GER faculty. Other goals include: providing professional development on quantitative and qualitative methods, virtually or face-to-face; making members aware of a broader range of options for publishing their research; providing support in tenure and promotion, possibly through the development of a list of potential external reviewers for GER; advocating for high quality GER, while not promoting any specific approach; and raising the profile of GER within the broader research community.
The Division's aim is to be inclusive. We applaud efforts to create repositories of shared materials, such as examples of high quality GER papers and surveys or instruments, and see these as ways to enable us to become a true community of practice. We are persuaded that this process needs to be as broad as possible. We are a relatively small, but growing community, and we want to encourage a range of viewpoints and research conducted from a variety of theoretical frameworks. We want to be careful that decisions about what to include are made by a spectrum of researchers who represent different viewpoints, recognizing that research that is at the cutting edge can be transformative and that many principles we all embrace were once considered on the fringe by mainstream geoscientists.