Geoscience Education Research Grand Challenges and Strategies Workshop

Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday 8:30am-11:30am Student Union: Santa Ana A and B


Kristen St. John, James Madison University
Heather Macdonald, College of William and Mary
karen mcneal, Auburn University Main Campus
Kim Kastens, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory

The workshop aims to bring together ~40 education researchers from all sub-disciplines in the geosciences (e.g., Earth, Atmospheric, Ocean, Environmental Sciences) and strongly encourages applications from faculty representing each sub-discipline.

The goals of this workshop are to (a) discuss and prioritize "grand challenges" in GER, and (b) propose strategies to address these challenges that can be actionable in the near term and will impact geoscience practice over the next decade.

The GER workshop will use group discussion and work-time, as well as other structured activities to support productive dialog and the outlining of a white paper. We anticipate that findings from a Spring 2017 survey of the broader geoscience education community will provide data to support workshop group discussion on grand challenges in different thematic areas of GER.

The workshop will start on Sunday afternoon (1:30-5:30pm), and then continue as part of the Monday-Tuesday-Wednesday morning EER workshop format. Participation in the workshop is application-based and notifications were sent out in late February. For accepted participants, please follow the registration instructions that were sent in your acceptance email. Travel stipends will be available to workshop participants.

Related Opportunity
NAGT's GER Division would like to invite workshop participants and those interested in learning more about GER but may be attending an alternative workshop, to coffee and bagels Wednesday morning at 7:45 a.m. in the GER Grand Challenges workshop location.


Fourteen years ago the Wingspread Report (Manduca et al., 2003) helped establish geoscience education research (GER) as a legitimate research field and highlighted important research questions for GER at the time. More recently, the growth and interest in GER is evident from the increase in the quality and frequency of geoscience education research articles, the 2014 establishment of the NAGT GER Division, an increase in the number of GER graduate programs, and tenure-track faculty positions that support geoscience education research. As an emerging DBER field (Singer et al., 2012), the GER community needs to take stock of the current state of their research and consider the best course forward so that it can have the greatest collective impact on advancing teaching and learning in the geosciences.The GER Grand Challenges and Strategies Workshop aims to to engage the geoscience education research community in setting ambitious goals for geoscience education research that will be achievable within ten years and will have significant impact on undergraduate geoscience education teaching and learning.

Target Audience

The workshop will bring together a wide-range of scholars on teaching and learning and geoscience education researchers. This include faculty with research expertise in teaching and learning in the breadth of the geosciences (e.g., ocean, atmosphere, solid Earth, environment and climate science) and a range of research themes (see Format below), as well as cognitive scientists and faculty professional development leaders. It includes geoscience education researchers at different stages in their career and different types of institutions.


Participants will work together to:

  • Prioritize grand challenges in GER for themes that have been identified as high interest to the geoscience education researcher and practitioner community.
  • Recommend strategies to address the prioritized grand challenges. These should be strategies that the community views as providing the strongest opportunities for rapid achievement of transformative GER.
  • Outline a white paper that articulates these GER priorities and strategy recommendations.
  • Expand the resources on the GER Toolbox.
Follow-up work by project leaders, working group leaders, and interested participants will include hosting a GSA TownHall to share and discuss the proposed priorities and recommended strategies with the broader community, and writing a white paper and other manuscripts for publication.


The GER workshop will use group discussion and work-time, as well as other structured activities to support productive dialog and the outlining of a white paper. Participants will do much of their work in small working groups arranged around the following themes:

  • Research on students' conceptual understanding of geology/solid Earth science content
  • Research on students' conceptual understanding of Env/ocean/atmosphere/climate content
  • Research on elementary, middle, and secondary Earth science teacher education (working with teachers and future teachers in all settings)
  • Research on teaching about Earth in the context of societal problems
  • Research on access and success of under-represented groups in the geosciences
  • Research on cognitive domain and problem solving in geoscience courses (e.g., quantitative reasoning, temporal reasoning, spatial reasoning, use of models)
  • Research on instructional strategies to improve geoscience learning in different settings and with different technologies (e.g., place-based instruction, teaching large lectures, online instruction)
  • Research on geoscience students' self-regulated learning/metacognition and affective domain
  • Research on institutional change and faculty professional development, TA training

In addition, assessment, workforce development, and situating GER within the broader DBER context are cross-cutting themes that will be addressed by all or multiple working groups.

Pre-workshop work will also be used to positions working groups to easily step into their primary tasks when face-to-face at the workshop. Pre-workshop work will include email conversations to promote collegiality wihtin working groups, contributing and reading recommended papers and reports, participating in a webinar, and contributing new materials to the GER Toolbox.

This workshop is part of the project "A Framework for Transformative Geoscience Education Research" funded by the National Science Foundation through grant DUE-1708228 (Kristen St. John, PI).

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