Utilizing Backwards Design to create a Blended, Multicontext learning framework in a field-based Geoscience course
GeoFORCE is an out-of-school-time high school program that strives to increase the number of minoritized students pursuing STEM and Geoscience by exposing students to Geoscience through week-long field-based courses. While >50% of GeoFORCE alumni are currently enrolled in STEM degrees, only ~10% are Geoscience majors. Recent work suggests that minoritized student interest in Geoscience increases if courses are taught in a culturally-situated and/or active learning framework; however, except for the 12th grade program, most GeoFORCE academies were historically taught using a traditional, lecture-based, quiz-and-test assessment approach. Here, we report our strategies for restructuring one 11th grade GeoFORCE academy in 2019 to incorporate blended, Multicontext (i.e., mixtures of low- and high-context) active learning, and assess differences in 40 minoritized students' engagement, interest, and perception of Geoscience as functions of learning style and context.
We employed a 'slow release' approach, transitioning gradually from traditional, low-context learning–which students were accustomed to–towards more active, high-context learning throughout one Academy. We utilized Backwards Design to develop active learning modules. Instructors identified daily learning objectives, then designed hands-on "workshops" to build practical skills and content literacy. Students applied skills and synthesized knowledge in the field to solve geologic problems presented by the Instructors (i.e., "challenges") in teams and "think like geoscientists". After-activity surveys indicate similar "interest" in all activities, but workshops and team-oriented challenges were more "difficult" and "exciting" than lectures. Student descriptions of workshops and challenges incorporate active verbs that reflect a scientific process (e.g., compare, analyze, examine, conduct). In contrast, descriptions of traditional learning are passive (e.g., listen, learn, take notes). Pre- and post-course surveys reveal that the number of students planning to pursue STEM and Geoscience increased. We suggest that blended, Multicontext learning fosters an inclusive learning environment where diverse students can envision themselves as scientists, thus increasing interest in pursuing Geoscience.