Earth Educators Rendezvous > Previous Rendezvous > Rendezvous 2017 > Program > Oral Sessions > Wednesday B: Research on Student Learning and Engagement in Geoscience Classrooms

Wednesday B: Research on Student Learning and Engagement in Geoscience Classrooms

Wednesday 1:30pm-4:00pm Northrop Hall: 340

Session Chairs

Nancy Price, Portland State University
Michael Pelch, University of Washington-Tacoma Campus
1:30pm
Science to benefit society: the role of the National Science Foundation
Carol Frost, University of Wyoming

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The National Science Foundation is the only federal agency dedicated to supporting basic research. It carries out its mission "to promote the progress of science" with great economy: 94% of its budget goes to researchers and students in the form of awards. NSF-funded research has generated fundamental knowledge needed to address the nation's most pressing problems, and a large majority of U.S. citizens support government investments in basic science. In the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act (S.3084) passed in January 2017, Congress reaffirms the value of NSF's merit review system in ensuring that funded proposals are of high quality, advance scientific knowlege, and address societal needs through basic research findings or related activities. This talk will present funding opportunities in the Division of Earth Sciences and current research initiatives that cross divisions and directorates at NSF. It will discuss some of the trends in Earth Sciences research awards in recent years and propose topics for discussion by Earth Sciences educators on how best to help prepare our students to succeed as our scientists of the future.
1:45pm
Conceptual Frameworks of Earth Systems: A Synthesis of Literature Addressing Student Learning of Complex Earth Systems
Hannah Scherer, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State Univ
Lauren Holder, Texas A & M University
Bruce Herbert, Texas A & M University

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The importance of an earth systems approach to education has been well documented for K-12 science education, geoscience literacy, and geoscience workforce expertise. Inherent in this approach is the idea of learners' systems thinking abilities, including student conceptualization of the Earth as a system. Additionally, there have been multiple calls for incorporating complexity science approaches and ideas into geoscience education. In this study, we reviewed the state of the geoscience education research (GER) field related to systems thinking in the context of earth systems by conducting a configurative review. Building on previous syntheses, we addressed the following research questions: 1) What are the characteristics of studies that address systems thinking in the context of earth systems? 2) What conceptual frameworks for systems are present in the GER literature on systems thinking in the context of earth systems? 3) How are these conceptual frameworks operationalized in research and educational interventions aimed at understanding and supporting systems thinking in the context of earth systems? Twenty-seven papers met inclusion and exclusion criteria. We conducted a content analysis on each of these papers to identify general characteristics and analyzed systems ideas using qualitative methods. We identified four conceptual frameworks for approaching systems thinking in research and educational interventions: earth systems perspective (19% of papers, n = 5), earth systems thinking skills (37% of papers, n = 10), complexity sciences (26% of papers, n = 7), and authentic complex earth and environmental systems (19% of papers, n = 5). This study is, to our knowledge, the first systematic review in this area and allows comparison of new findings with previous work more consistently. It also facilitates strengthening connections with cognitive science and education research literature related to systems thinking and complex systems.
2:00pm
Comparing Social Comparisons in Geoscience Courses
Caitlin Callahan, Grand Valley State University
Andrew R. Sparks, Grand Valley State University

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Students commonly compare their performance on an assignment or in a class to that of their peers. Our goal in this descriptive pilot study is to explore how this tendency towards making comparisons—defined as their social comparison orientation—relates to students' motivation to learn or motivation to seek help in their learning from others. In particular, we are investigating whether there are differences in social comparison orientation between students enrolled in introductory geoscience courses and students enrolled in courses meant for geoscience majors. For instance, we can reasonably expect that declared geoscience majors are more likely to express greater interest in geoscience content than students enrolled in introductory courses; indeed, the latter commonly complete introductory courses mainly to satisfy general education requirements. But is social comparison more or less prominent in courses for declared geoscience majors than in introductory courses? How might social comparison be influencing the learning environment of not only a course for majors but also a course for non-majors? For this project, we conducted a survey study with items related to social comparison orientation as well as items from the following sub-scales of the Motivated Strategies for Learning Questionnaire (MSLQ): Intrinsic Goal Orientation, Task Value, Peer Learning, and Help Seeking. We also collected data on demographics and grades for students in both introductory and upper-level geoscience courses. Statistical analyses focus on identifying whether differences within and between the groups are meaningful. Future work will expand to include the collection of interview data.
2:15pm
Examining Emotion and Academic Anxiety Through Students' own Voices
Michael Pelch, University of Washington-Tacoma Campus
Scott Freeman, University of Washington-Seattle Campus

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We sought to investigate how students' academic anxiety and emotions influence their university experience. Few studies have explored the connection between emotion and academic anxiety. Previous studies have shown connections between anxiety during exams and performance. Anxiety has also been shown to disproportionately impact women and underrepresented minorities in academic settings. Emotion has been shown to impact self-regulated learning, which in turn influences students' study habits and class performance. Emotion is also suggested to influence choices students make about courses, study habits and their motivations to succeed. Students in an introductory science course were given the Cognitive Test Anxiety scale and the resulting scores were used create bins of low, moderate and highly anxious students. Nineteen interview participants were explicitly chosen representing those three groups. Next, they participated in an open 60-minute one-on-one interview. Transcripts were analyzed using an emergent grounded theory approach. This method of qualitative analysis uses inductive reasoning to determine patterns in participants' responses in order to develop a model. Emergent grounded theory employs line-by-line analysis, open and focused coding and constant comparison to develop categories. Our results expand on previous work by providing greater detail on the perceptions and emotions students with high anxiety associate with poor performance. We found that students who described actions and behaviors consistent with high anxiety also focus on negative emotions related to self and ability, and describe a pervasive defeatist mentality. Highly anxious students also more frequently report employing poor self-regulatory methods and challenges adopting new study strategies. These emotions and the association of personal value with earned grades is in line with models of performance goal orientation. Our results provide connections between academic anxiety and self-regulated learning through emotion, and could have implications for researchers seeking to reduce traditional achievement gaps in both STEM performance and persistence.
2:30pm
Break
2:45pm
Re-conceptualizing the Scientific Inquiry Geoscience Education Literature in Context of the K-12 Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) Practices
Nancy Price, Portland State University

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Aspects of science practice as related to inquiry have been included in the discussions of K-12 education from the earliest stages of standards development. However, only recently with the development of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) have specific aspects of scientific practice been defined and required. The NGSS define grade-specific learning targets of eight Science and Engineering Practices: Asking Questions & Defining Problems; Developing & Using Models, Planning & Carrying Out Investigations; Analyzing & Interpreting Data; Using Mathematics & Computational Thinking; Constructing Explanations & Designing Solutions; Engaging in Argument from Evidence; and Obtaining, Evaluating, & Communicating Information. In an effort to re-conceptualize past research in light of these, a review of the geosciences scientific inquiry literature was conducted, with references coded by the type of article, grade level, practice(s) they address, and the assessable learning targets/competencies. Inquiry-focused geoscience publications were strongly represented by the practices most commonly associated with the "nature of the geosciences", such as Developing & Using Models in the understanding of systems models. Publications coded by more than one practice revealed "practice pairs" that are common in the geosciences. For example, the pairing of Analyzing & Interpreting Data with Obtaining, Evaluating, & Communicating Information shows that the organization of data on maps to reveal relationships is important in both interpreting and communicating spatial information in the geosciences. Pairing also shows areas where the distinction between two practices is blurred, indicating places where students might have trouble learning these in the context of the geosciences. Most notable is the pairing of Analyzing & Interpreting Data and Using Mathematics & Computational Thinking because some large datasets are best investigated using computational programs. Finally, the absence of pairing between practices and the underrepresentation of some practices in the literature (e.g., Asking Questions) show areas where further research is needed.
3:00pm
Reformed teaching in geoscience classrooms: How engaged are our students and what can we do to engage them more?
Rachel Teasdale, California State University-Chico
Karen Viskupic, Boise State University
Julie Bartley, Gustavus Adolphus College
Katherine Ryker, University of South Carolina-Columbia
Dori Farthing, SUNY College at Geneseo
David McConnell, North Carolina State University
Cathy Manduca, Carleton College
Monica Bruckner, Carleton College
Ellen Iverson, Carleton College
Rory McFadden, Gustavus Adolphus College

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A team of trained observers made direct observations of 204 unique geoscience classes across the US using the Reformed Teaching Observation Protocol (RTOP). Observed classes were taught by faculty of diverse teaching rank and years of experience at a variety of institution types. Data were collected from introductory and upper-level undergraduate courses that ranged in size from 6 to 275 students. Total RTOP scores do not correlate with class size, class level, institution type, instructor gender, instructor rank, or years of teaching experience. Classroom instruction was separated into three categories based on total RTOP scores: Teacher Centered (≤30), Transitional (31–49), and Student Centered (≥50). Practices that characterize differences among these categories were determined by (1) statistical analyses of RTOP item scores and RTOP subscale scores; (2) analysis of instructor responses to a survey about teaching practices; and (3) qualitative analysis of written comments made by RTOP observers. Results of these analyses provide a coherent picture of instructional strategies used in geoscience classrooms, and define three ways in which Student Centered classrooms are likely to differ from Transitional and Teacher Centered classrooms. Student Centered classes are more likely to include (1) activities that have the students actively engaged with one another; (2) activities in which instructors assess student learning and adjust lessons accordingly; and (3) opportunities for students to answer and pose questions that determine the focus of a lesson. Student engagement, as measured with RTOP rubric scores correlates with instructor professional development and the use of lesson plans and activities that have students work together to solve problems or interpret data, such as activities designed through the InTeGrate program.
3:15pm
COPUS findings may help explain low diversity in geoscience majors
Jennifer Engels, University of Hawaii at Manoa
Daniela Bottjer-Wilson, University of Hawaii at Manoa
Kathleen Kane, University of Hawaii at Manoa
Barbara Bruno, University of Hawaii at Manoa

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STEM education research strongly indicates that students learn more and have lower failure rates in active learning classrooms when compared to traditional lecture-only classrooms. This is even more pronounced for women and minorities, for whom achievement gaps can be pro-actively reduced relative to their peers with the use of active pedagogy techniques. Designed for STEM classrooms, Classroom Observation Protocol for Undergraduate STEM (COPUS) is a metric that quantifies the amount of active learning taking place by measuring the actions of students and instructors in two-minute intervals throughout the class period. In a test study at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, COPUS has been experimentally applied to a range of non-STEM (e.g. communication, language) as well as STEM (e.g. geology, oceanography) classrooms. Preliminary results based on more than 20 classes indicate that with few exceptions, the non-STEM classrooms show a much greater diversity of active learning pedagogies. In the geoscience courses we observed, students spend the majority of their time listening (~75%), with a small fraction (~25%) divided between students asking and answering questions, making predictions, and completing individual work. In non-STEM courses, their time is divided roughly equally between listening (~30%), answering questions (~25%), and doing group work (~25%), with the remaining time spent doing presentations, asking questions, and taking quizzes. Underrepresented minorities make up approximately half of the state of Hawaii's population, one third of the student population at UH Manoa, but only 17% of geoscience majors. Our COPUS results raise the question: Could our low diversity in geoscience be due in part to a lack of active learning opportunities?
3:30pm
Understanding Student Engagement while Using an Augmented Reality Sandbox
Nicholas Soltis, Auburn University Main Campus
karen mcneal, Auburn University Main Campus
Rachel Atkins, North Carolina State University
Lindsay Maudlin, North Carolina State University

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Augmented reality (AR) sandboxes are becoming more and more prevalent in undergraduate geology lab settings. This tool is useful in helping students develop a three dimensional understanding of topographic maps and the landforms they represent. Geoscience education researchers have already begun exploring how the use of these tools impacts student learning and spatial thinking skills, and this study aims to build on it by examining student engagement. Technology in the form of biosensors allows researchers to measure skin conductance (or electrodermal activity - EDA) as a proxy for student engagement. This works by measuring minute changes in skin perspiration, which correspond to sympathetic nervous system arousal. This study used wrist sensors to monitor the engagement of students exposed to different instructional treatments of an AR table in an Earth System Science lab course. This data was supplemented by the use of eye tracking glasses during the activity as well as one on one interviews conducted after the lab. During the lab intervention, three different treatments of the sandbox were used by different groups of students: an unstructured lab, a semi-structured lab, and structured lab. The EDA data was then used to compare student engagement during the three treatments and the eye tracking data was used to understand what students were looking at and how they spent their time during the activity. Statistical analysis of the EDA data for the 96 students that participated in the research study will be presented along with the qualitative findings from the post-interviews and the eye-tracking analysis.
3:45pm
Discussion