Thursday B: Student Learning & Community Engagement

Thursday 1:30pm-4:00pm TSU - Humphries: 221

Session Chairs

Mike Brudzinski, Miami University-Oxford
Katie Farnsworth, Indiana University of Pennsylvania-Main Campus
1:30pm
Undergraduate Writing Assignments on the Nature of Science using the NSF-funded "The Story Behind the Science"
Carrie Wright-Tyler, University of Southern Indiana

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Scientifically literate citizens are able to actively participate and make decisions in the discourse of science in a global society dealing with scientific issues such as climate change because they have sufficient understanding of the concepts and the nature of science (NOS)—and how to communicate that knowledge in writing. However, understandings of the NOS and science communication skills are lacking in many university students, both science majors and non-science majors, leading to misconceptions that create barriers to scientific literacy. Writing to Learn (WTL) is an effective pedagogical solution because it aligns with attributes of successful learning such as feedback and engagement, provides students with opportunities for higher order thinking skills like synthesis and analysis, and encourages students to emulate the language processes of building scientific knowledge. The NSF-funded website, "The Story Behind the Science" (TSBTS) provides material to help students learn about the NOS through individual "stories" of scientific problems and advances in the natural sciences, including geology. I developed a series of WTL activities using TSBTS geology stories and implemented them in introductory geology courses for both geology majors and education majors to improve students' scientific communication skills and NOS literacy. These assignments include low-stakes writing, an argumentative paper, and structured peer review. I performed evaluations of pedagogical effectiveness of these assignments by comparing NOS literacy exhibited in student writing early in the semester with that exhibited in later writing. Results indicate that engaging students in the study of science through language arts—critical reading of and writing about the NOS—produces measurable improvements in NOS scientific literacy. I will present detailed results of these assessments, describe each assignment and its theoretical underpinnings in science education research and composition studies, and discuss lessons learned and best practices for instituting writing assignments using TSBTS in geology classrooms.
1:45pm
Building Better Graphs for Climate Change Communication: Perceptions of Credibility
Stephanie Courtney, Auburn University Main Campus
karen mcneal, Auburn University Main Campus

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Climate change mitigation will require public support and participation, and scientists often communicate to the public about climate change with visualizations such as graphs. However, there is limited existing research exploring how the use of graphs may affect the public or how to improve our communication efforts. In this study, we compared original IPCC SPM graphs to redesigns of the same data to investigate participant use and perceptions of the design changes. Participants were undergraduates with low climate knowledge and low climate change risk assessment. Methods included usability-based eye-tracking, pre/post-survey, interview, and a ranking activity. Participants were in high agreement around perceptions of credibility of the graphs and referenced both features of the graphs and perceptions of science/scientists to make their decisions.
2:00pm
Understanding the Effectiveness of the AR Sandbox through Student Experiences
Elijah Johnson, Auburn University Main Campus
karen mcneal, Auburn University Main Campus

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Spatial reasoning ability is a crucial skill necessary for success in any of the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) domains. Research suggests that the base level of spatial thinking ability is how students self-organize into their majors and careers (Wai et al., 2013), where students may select out of STEM domains due to the level of spatial ability they possess. However, spatial reasoning is malleable and, with training, could increase student participation in the STEM domains. One approach to support the development of student spatial skills is through using innovative technologies that effectively teach content and train spatial ability in the process. The augmented reality (AR) sandbox is an interactive technology that teaches geological concepts and, perhaps, spatial reasoning ability simultaneously. Despite, several recent publications that have utilized the sandbox in the undergraduate classroom (Woods et al., 2017; Giorgis et al., 2017), there has not been evidence for the usefulness of the AR sandbox on improving spatial reasoning ability. Activities were developed with the AR sandbox to train spatial ability. The Spatial Reasoning Instrument (SRI) (Ramful et al., 2017) was distributed to the undergraduate student population enrolled at a large research institution in the southeastern United States. Participants shared their experiences with the activity and spatial thinking skills, and share their perceptions on its effectiveness.
2:15pm
Challenges in making meaning from Ground Motion Visualizations: The role of geoscience knowledge in interpreting dynamic spatiotemporal patterns
Mike Brudzinski, Miami University-Oxford
Allison Jaeger, Temple University
Tim Shipley, Temple University

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The USArray Ground Motion Visualization (GMV) is an IRIS video product that illustrates seismic waves traveling away from an earthquake by depicting seismometers as symbols that vary in color according to recorded amplitude. GMVs are typically the most popular IRIS product following an earthquake (e.g., ~10,000 unique views for an Oklahoma earthquake). Many instructors think dynamic visualizations offer advantages over static media, but research has indicated they can impede learning by making students process more information. We evaluated changes in student understanding of seismic waves from GMVs by collecting data from 3 different college-level settings: general student population in a psychology laboratory, students in geoscience majors courses, and a seismology research group. A 7-question multiple-choice assessment was developed in all 3 settings and then administered in the laboratory and classroom. Using a similar question before and after the GMV, we found most geoscience majors understood seismic wave concepts prior to the GMV and the GMV improved their understanding. Only about half the novices appeared to understand seismic wave concepts prior to the GMV and performance decreased after the GMV. Performance decreases were larger when students watched an alternative "tutorial" GMV developed to further illustrate what a GMV represents. Increased breadth of incorrect answer selections by novices indicated the GMV increased confusion about what happens to energy from an earthquake. Lower performance on other post-GMV questions by novices suggests the current style of GMVs are unable to teach basic seismological concepts to people without geoscience training. While web traffic indicates people's interest in GMVs, watching GMVs does not appear to translate to improved understanding of seismic waves for novices. Future development of dynamic visualizations should consider the cognitive load these learning materials impose on the learner and seek to further implement principles of multimedia instructional design that minimize cognitive processing demands.
2:30pm
Break
2:45pm
Using Student Drawings of Biogeochemical Cycles to Explore Systems Thinking Abilities
Nicholas Soltis, Auburn University Main Campus
karen mcneal, Auburn University Main Campus
Quinlan Swain, Auburn University Main Campus

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Biogeochemical cycles are the fundamental component connecting all parts of the Earth system. Cycling of elements like carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus involves multiple fluxes and reservoirs through all components of the broader Earth system. Student conceptions of these drawings can be measured through their drawings of various biogeochemical cycles, and the reservoirs they depict as well as the fluxes they illustrate can give us valuable insight into their systems thinking abilities. In this study, we analyzed undergraduate student sketches of the carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus cycles and analyzed the number of fluxes and reservoirs depicted in each one as well as the types of reservoirs pictured. We performed statistical analysis to explore if there were differences between the number of fluxes and reservoirs shown between students in STEM and non-STEM fields. We also performed correlations and regression analysis to explore if the number of courses in various scientific disciplines was related to or predictive to the number of fluxes and reservoirs shown. Initial results show that students from STEM disciplines draw cycles with significantly more fluxes than their non-STEM peers. Additional analysis also shows that the number of chemistry and biology courses are most correlated to the number of fluxes and reservoirs depicted. Regression analysis suggests that the combination of the number of chemistry courses and geology courses may be an important predictor for the number of fluxes and flows shown in student diagrams. This suggests that interdisciplinary training may be important in the development of systems thinking in undergraduate STEM students, it also suggests that more work is needed to integrate systems thinking skills into introductory courses, particularly those that cater to non-STEM students.
3:00pm
Science Communication Training as a Vehicle for Building Student Confidence and Community
Beth Bartel, UNAVCO
Maite Agopian, EarthScope
Wendy Bohon, IRIS Consortium

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Communication is a critical part of any scientific or educational endeavor. As we teach our students about science and introduce them to or support them in research, we also have an obligation to train the next workforce in effective communication. Science communication goes beyond oral and poster presentations at meetings (although both are very important). Science communication, and communication training, can include this type of professional communication plus equally important formal and informal communication including networking, collaborating, teaching, outreach (including social media and mass media), managing stakeholder relationships, and acquiring funding. Communications training, when designed intentionally, also builds relationships and confidence. Over the past four years, UNAVCO, the EarthScope National Office, IRIS, and others have collaborated to offer communication trainings at mid-sized and large meetings as well as individual geoscience schools or departments. The trainings have ranged from short, topic-specific trainings on networking, storytelling, or social media to half-day or full-day short courses laying a foundation of basic communication skills. In this presentation, we highlight the elements needed to facilitate a communications training to reap the benefits we have observed in terms of building community and confidence among students and early career scientists. We will share the key findings from evaluation data to that led us to recognize the importance of these benefits to training participants.
3:15pm
Leveraging Local Connections to Provide Combined Research and Professional Development Opportunities for Undergraduates
Katie Farnsworth, Indiana University of Pennsylvania-Main Campus
Holly Travis, Indiana University of Pennsylvania-Main Campus
Matt Genchur, White Township, Indiana County, PA

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Students at Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP) are provided with opportunities to participate in undergraduate research. This provides them with many well-known benefits. These well documented benefits include higher achievement and retention rates, increased oral and written skills, and acquiring lab and field skills that help with their future career or educational paths. By partnering with local organizations to develop projects for undergraduate research, the benefits multiply for everyone involved, but especially the students. Local non-profit organizations are provided knowledge and understanding about specific issues relevant to their organization. It also often initiates, or strengthens, a connection to the local university community that expands outside of the science departments. For example, one of the non-profits we work with was connected with faculty teaching a communications course, and soon another student project developed create new web-content. We have also found many students expanding the volunteer force of these non-profits, helping out on additional non-science projects. The University and the individual faculty also receive benefits from these connections. The students help build bridges between IUP and the community. When our neighbors are interacting with students in productive ways, it helps to mitigate the negative interactions that pop-up in all college towns. The faculty also benefits in multiple ways. The connections with local organizations help facilitate applied research in the region. Faculty also gain a co-mentor for these student projects. This helps to ease the time burden on faculty working with undergraduates. The biggest benefit, by far, is to the students. To name just a few, students have enhanced career exploration opportunities, learn to publicly advocate for their science to communities of non-scientists, and get to contribute knowledge to problems that impact their own communities. Experiences such as presenting to county commissioners is eye-opening, as well as skill building.
3:30pm
Fossil Finding at Fort Negley in Nashville: Linking Deep-Time and Civil War History
Molly Miller, Vanderbilt University
Gregory Smith, Vanderbilt University
Krista Castillo, Metro Nashville Parks
William T. Harris, Metro Nashville Parks
Kitty Porter, Friends of Fort Negley
Jon Badgett, Vulcan Materials Company
Jennifer Berry, Metro Nashville Public Schools

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The Friends of Fort Negley Park(FOFNP) have partnered with Vanderbilt University (EES Department), Vulcan Materials Company, and Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) to provide fossil programs at the urban greenspace Fort Negley Park. During the Civil War, Middle Tennessee's Ordovician limestones, having very little insoluble residue and thus thin soil, necessitated the building of the Union Army's Fort Negley through labor-intensive quarrying. Built by thousands of enslaved, self-emancipated and free African-Americans, many forced into service, Fort Negley was finished quickly despite deplorable living conditions and hundreds of deaths. The limestone ruins of Fort Negley remain today along with the quarry site utilized by the Works Progress Administration when rebuilding the fort in the 1930s. These collaborative fossil initiatives: 1) engage Nashvillians with the abundant fossils in the Paleozoic limestones; 2) provide fun earth science activities for Nashville elementary school students that align with science standards; 3) link the paleogeographical setting to Fort Negley's importance in the Civil War and to Nashville's present-day environmental issues; and 4) enhance and diversify the learning experiences of Vanderbilt EES students by adding a service-learning component. "Fossils at the Fort" is presented annually by students in Vanderbilt's "Life through Time" course for the Nashville community, attracting as many as1000 visitors per event. Before the event, students observe and interpret the fossils, including in situ tabulate corals in Fort Negley limestone and learn the identity and life habits of the marine fossils in the pile of fossil-rich rock delivered by Vulcan Materials Company from a nearby quarry. During the event students share what they have learned with the public. Additionally, a grant from the Nashville Predators supported development of school field trips, serving >900 MNPS students in spring, 2019. Students discover fossils and link Nashville's deep time history to the Civil War and modern environmental challenges.
3:45pm
Discussion