Earth Educators Rendezvous > Previous Rendezvous > Rendezvous 2017 > Program > Oral Sessions > Monday A: Teaching with Societally-relevant Curriculum

Monday A: Teaching with Societally-relevant Curriculum

Monday 1:30pm-4:00pm Northrop Hall: 116

Session Chairs

Eric Pyle, James Madison University
Melanie Will Cole, Central New Mexico Community College

1:30pm
PaleoCon: An authentic undergraduate research experience exploring climate change and human-driven extinctions in a large gen-ed geoscience course
Alison Olcott Marshall, University of Kansas Main Campus

Show Abstract »

At the University of Kansas, all undergraduate students are required to take a natural science course regardless of their major. Given that this class is often the only college-level science class a student will ever take, and that two of the most pressing issues facing humanity right now—climate change and the prospect of human-caused mass extinctions—can best be understood through a geological lens, I decided to redevelop "Geol 121: Life Through Time from DNA to Dinosaurs," an introductory paleontology class for non-majors. Previously, this course was a lecture-based march through geological time, now, in the transformed Geol 121, geological and paleontological information are interwoven with the interconnected issues of human-driven extinctions and climate change. Students work in teams each class period to actively explore and discover knowledge themselves, rather than passively receiving it. Instead of a final exam, during the last third of the semester there are a series of assignments designed to scaffold students through a collaborative final class project, dubbed "PaleoCon." This project requires teams of students to generate and defend their own research into the twin civic issues underlying the course, and then, during Finals Week, present their findings to their classmates, the university, and the general public in a creative science-fair style presentation. This project requires students to research a modern animal threatened with extinction, an extinct related animal, and to apply their findings on the ancient organism to create a mitigation plan to help the modern animal. This project has led to demonstrable increases in student learning and engagement, while the students themselves report that, by having to think of solutions as well as researching problems, the project makes them feel helpful and like part of the solution, rather than helpless and overwhelmed.
1:45pm
Water in Society: Interdisciplinary Undergraduate Teaching and Learning about Water
Diane Lally, University of Nebraska at Lincoln
Destini Petitt, University of Nebraska at Lincoln
Cory Forbes, University of Nebraska at Lincoln
Nicholas Brozovic, University of Nebraska at Lincoln
Trenton Franz, University of Nebraska at Lincoln

Show Abstract »

Societies today face an array of water-related challenges within the Food-Energy-Water-Nexus (FEW-Nexus). To prepare students to become tomorrow's global citizens, postsecondary learning experiences must support them to learn reason about socio-hydrological issues such as agricultural water use, water quality, and water security. However, undergraduate courses designed to cultivate water literacy are few and far between. To begin to address this need, we are engaged in a 3-year, NSF-funded project focused on the iterative design, implementation, and study of a new, introductory (100-level), interdisciplinary course - Water in Society – at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL). Here, we report on the discipline-based education research in which we are engaged around the first iteration of the course, during which we served a diverse population of students (n=45) from a variety of majors (STEM and non-STEM) and backgrounds. The course is grounded in a set of instructional design heuristics that foreground principles of effective undergraduate STEM instruction and contemporary learning theory, socio-hydrological systems as a core construct for the course, and student engagement with authentic hydrological data and computer-based models and simulations. We utilize design-based research methods to engage in iterative development and refinement of the new course, drawing upon data collected during the course that includes student artifacts, interviews, and pre-/post-course assessments, to investigate students' science content knowledge, beliefs, and reasoning about socio-hydrological issues, as well as their model-based reasoning and systems thinking, all of which are core characteristics of the FEW-Nexus. Findings illustrate growth in student outcomes over the semester, as well as key interactions between conceptual understanding and socio-hydrological systems thinking. We use these empirical findings to illustrate and discuss challenges and opportunities we have experienced as an interdisciplinary team engaged in undergraduate education in the FEW-Nexus, as well future directions for the course.
2:00pm
Effectiveness of incorporating active-learning techniques into a large introductory geology class
Hannah Aird, California State University-Chico
Rachel Teasdale, California State University-Chico

Show Abstract »

The CSU, Chico introductory geology general education class (GEOS 101) was redesigned in fall 2016 to infuse active learning into all class periods of two sections of 65 and 140 students. The redesign included use of small group structure, clickers, and facilitation of class activities by upper level geology or environmental science majors. The course incorporated a range of topics from 'traditional' (plate tectonics, minerals) to the more 'applied' (groundwater resources and contamination, climate change and its impact on society). Exercises were either adapted from InTeGrate materials, or newly developed. Learning and confidence data were collected from the students in the class and from the student assistants. Student assistants report that the more traditional topics were most appropriate to the course (although they felt all topics were relevant), but believe the students were more interested in societally- focused topics. Student assistants also indicated that students were more engaged in the redesigned GEOS 101 class than in their own equivalent introductory classes. All student assistants report that their content knowledge improved through the experience of helping students in the classroom. Seven of the eight student assistants also felt that their pedagogical knowledge increased through the classroom experience and our weekly preparation meetings. Learning data for students enrolled in the course indicate they have accurate prior knowledge of earthquake hazards, but not for less familiar hazards such as rock slides, floods and those associated with climate change. Comparison of pre-post activity scores indicate improved knowledge in these areas from 13-28%. Students enrolled in the course reported they enjoy the active style of learning, but found it difficult to study for exams, as many of their lecture notes comprised worksheets rather than traditional lecture notes. Based on student feedback, instructors took steps to alleviate such issues in the final third of the semester.
2:15pm
The impact of course-wide adoption of InTeGrate teaching materials on the instructional beliefs and practices of geoscience instructors
Doug Czajka, North Carolina State University
David McConnell, North Carolina State University

Show Abstract »

A primary goal of the InTeGrate project is to create student-centered teaching curricula that will improve the geoscience literacy of undergraduate students by teaching the geosciences in the context of societal issues. As part of the InTeGrate Research Team, eight faculty members from a variety of institutions across the US adopted 18 instructional units of InTeGrate curricula to use in their courses. The project ran over three semesters, with the Fall 2015 serving as a control semester in which the instructors taught their courses how they traditionally had. InTeGrate teaching units were then employed in both the Spring 2016 and Fall 2016 iterations of their course. This research evaluated the impact that the curricula adoption had on moving the instructors toward more student-centered teaching practices and beliefs about teaching and learning. Teaching practices were measured in both the Fall 2015 control and Fall 2016 treatment semester using the Reformed Teaching Observation Protocol (RTOP) as well as the self-report Teaching Practices Inventory (TPI). Beliefs about teaching and learning were assessed using the Teacher Beliefs Interview (TBI) at four points during the project, prior to the start of every semester and after the final Fall 2016 treatment semester. The results of the RTOP, TPI, and TBI data will be presented, along with a discussion of whether adopting student-centered teaching materials with little other training or guidance can serve as effective professional development that promotes change toward student-centered practices and beliefs in the adopting instructors.
2:30pm
Break
2:45pm
Enhancing the Geoscience Pedagogical Landscape: An Integrative Strategic Approach to Heighten Student Learning
Melanie Will Cole, Central New Mexico Community College

Show Abstract »

The fundamental goal of college-level science educators is to enhance student learning while at the same time develop & foster the learner's skills in critical thinking, inquiry and creativity. Considering the physical sciences & engineering disciplines, inclusive of geoscience, the technical literature presents a full spectrum of classroom-based pedagogical approaches to achieve this aspiration, to include, lecture - partner discussion learning, active and cooperative learning, learning communities, service learning, cooperative education, inquiry and problem-based learning, team projects and flipped classrooms. Such methods to enhance the students' involvement in their learning brings excitement and novelty to science educators, however all too often select cutting edge teaching-learning tactics are implemented as a unilateral teaching-learning approach. This presentation will review the current state-of-the-art for the learner-centric singular pedagogies and discuss our recent research and validation assessment methodologies focused on a strategic integrative-teaching pedagogy to promote positive learning outcomes for geoscience undergraduate-level college students. Our pedagogical design space consists of integrating several elements or combinatorial learning methods which facilitate learner inquiry-critical thinking, cognitive elaboration, & collaboration skills for conceptually complex and content-dense subject matter in geoscience. The multi-dimensional facets of our study, namely, Engagement, Core Competency, Learner Based Responsibility, Engineered Simulated Experimentation, Science Argument, Collaboration, and Communication will be discussed in concert with their associated learning metric(s) achieved. Assessment of the effectiveness of our strategic integrative-teaching pedagogy was attained by utilizing four distinct modes to assay student learning, such as, science questions to demonstrate students' knowledge gain, two sigma science questions to access critical thinking, student surveys and independent observation via one or more unbiased observers overseeing the classroom pedagogical setting.
3:00pm
How Does Group Inquiry Work with an Authentic Scientific Instrument Alter Climate Science Learning
Drew Bush, McGill University
Renee Sieber, McGill University
Gale Seiler, Iowa State University
Mark Chandler, Columbia University in the City of New York

Show Abstract »

Myriad science education technologies have been developed to allow students to visualize, model or interact with otherwise abstract, global Earth system processes. Still others have utilized digital communications, data and audio/video technologies to enhance student inquiry into subjects such as anthropogenic global climate change (AGCC). The goal of this study was to show how differing science education technologies succeed and fail at getting students to evolve in their understanding of AGCC. Conducted in Montreal, QC with 79 students, we compared the educational use of a scientific technology, a National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) global climate model (GCM), to software recommended by the American Association of Geographers that included simpler interfaces and processes. Many science education technologies aim to convey key AGCC concepts, Earth systems processes or possible mitigation scenarios; the Columbia University-NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies Educational Global Climate Model (EdGCM) aims to teach students the methods and processes of global climate modeling. These distinct goals affected how students in two independent, seven-week courses perceived the technology with which they worked, engaged with course materials and evolved in their learning. To determine student perceptions, engagement and learning trajectories, we analyzed pre/post questionnaires and diagnostic exams, exit interviews, 535 minutes of classroom video footage, three practice quizzes and 253 student written reflections. Results indicated a GCM-based course posed unique technological and scientific challenges for both instructors and students. It also better engaged students in research and gave them clearer AGCC understandings. Students using simpler technologies never fully understood AGCC research and demonstrated learning trajectories with smaller gains.
3:15pm
Press-Kits as an Approach to Presenting Controversial Issues in the Geosciences
Eric Pyle, James Madison University

Show Abstract »

Communicating scientific information to nonscientific audiences requires presenting accurate information in multiple ways. It is critical in reaching a broad audience, however, that the information be presented as non-biased without advocating a particular pro/con position. This is a fine line to tread, but one for which science is uniquely equipped to provide. Given that issues in the geosciences are complex, crossing policy, economics, and public health, approaches to informing the public of what science says about the Earth system need to reflect this complexity without being complicated. The audience will vote with its feet if the information is seen as complicated, as well as advocating one extreme position or another. Used in a capstone course as a culminating project, a "press-kit" provides students with a platform to organize information on contemporary Earth issues. In fulfilling the goal of informing rather advocating for a position, a press kit contains sample news articles representing the nature of the issue as well as research on the issue. Since the audience will have questions about the issue, FAQs anticipate these questions. The press kit should also provide a spatial (map) and temporal (timeline) context for the issue in a manner that is complete but does not add value statements. A critical component of the press kit is an application of Craven's (2009) credibility spectrum, where the positions of sources of information are on their particular advocacy on the issue versus an analysis of bias, self-interest, and reputational risk of the sources. Students have developed press kits on topics from solid waste management to hydraulic fracturing. With a press-kit, students can provide scientifically representative information for issues that are constrained yet potentially controversial respecting the audience as well as giving the students confidence in their abilities to advocate for science.
3:30pm
An Integrate Modules Derived Geoscience Course: A Working Model Review
Rob Rohrbaugh, El Paso Community College

Show Abstract »

The vast selection of material available with current Integrate learning modules provides an opportunity to evolve select courses into an applied and/or site-based learning format with ready-to-use materials. This format moves beyond the typical concept lecture/assessment pedagogy, and utilizes real-world situations and data analysis to enhance concept learning and critical thinking skills. The current selection of Integrate modules provides coverage for all the core course concepts and beyond, and therefore a course can be entirely derived from the available modules. A course can be supplemented with accessory material for either concept enhancement or background refreshment. Rob Rohrbaugh of El Paso Community College will present the aspects of a newly implemented Geoscience course (second term) derived entirely of Integrate modules. Course elements to be presented will include: Hybrid structure with Blackboard, overview of utilized Integrate modules, trial analysis of no-test assessment, consequential student engagement, challenges/failures, and future course adjustments. This presentation will serve as a guide model for implementing Integrate modules either into existing courses or comprehensive course restructuring for evolving towards an applied concepts pedagogy.
3:45pm
Discussion