Oral Session V: Improving Student Learning in the Geosciences

Wednesday 12-2:30pm PT / 1-3:30pm MT / 2-4:30pm CT / 3-5:30pm ET Online

Session Chair

Renee Clary, Mississippi State University

Schedule

12:05 PT / 1:05 MT / 2:05 CT / 3:05 ET
Making Sense of Interest and Learning in Introductory Geology Courses: Teaching Assistant and Student Perspectives
Katherine Ryker, University of South Carolina-Columbia
Rachel Teasdale, California State University-Chico
Kelsey Bitting, Elon University

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How undergraduate students experience our introductory geoscience labs can have a profound effect on how much they learn and retain about our discipline, and how interested they are in learning more about it in the future. But what design features or characteristics do teaching assistants (TAs) and undergraduate students see as most likely to prompt interest and learning? This question may be particularly relevant in 2020-2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic shifted labs to online and hybrid environments. We present preliminary data from an ongoing study examining TA teaching beliefs, student interest, and student learning in introductory geoscience labs.Data are drawn from five participating institutions during the F'20 and Sp'21 semesters. We collected pre- and post-semester content learning data and weekly interest data related to each lab from undergraduates in participating introductory geology lab sections. At the end of the semester, data was shared with teaching assistants in an interview setting. Preliminary results indicate that TAs perceive that student interest in lab activities is influenced by a wide range of factors, including relevance, students' personal experiences and prior knowledge, and the use of data or inquiry. Similarly, TAs attribute higher learning gains to similar factors, such as relevance, student engagement, collection or use of data and inquiry, and labs that are not too difficult or time-consuming. The recurring themes of relevance and inquiry are reinforced by students' responses when asked what would make their interest level in a given lab increase by one point on a five point scale. The most-cited approaches were "increased relevance or connection to my life experience or future career" (34% of responses) and "making a game out of the lab" (26% of responses). Where available, student interest data will be compared for the same labs taught face-to-face and online (e.g. Spring 2020 vs. 2021).
12:20 PT / 1:20 MT / 2:20 CT / 3:20 ET
Student Understanding of Food-Energy-Water Nexus Concepts in Introductory Interdisciplinary Environmental Programs
Lydia Horne, University of Northern Colorado
Amanda Manzanares, University of Northern Colorado
Steven Anderson, University of Northern Colorado
Shirley Vincent, Vincent Evaluation Consulting
Chelsie Romulo, University of Northern Colorado

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To better inform teaching, curricular decision-making, and management of college-level environmental programs (EPs), we are investigating environmental students' foundational knowledge, alternative conceptions, and their ability to grasp complex systems-level concepts. Specifically, we are creating a Next Generation Concept Inventory (NGCI) by applying an established machine learning method of evaluating constructed response (CR) (e.g., short answer questions). Multiple choice items have been the chosen assessment tool used for previous concept inventories. However, numerous studies show that CR items reduce students' ability to use testwiseness to correctly answer exam questions and CR items test students on higher levels of Bloom's Taxonomy than multiple choice items. Concept inventory development follow these steps: (1) selection of concepts considered important to educators in the field of study, (2) identification of student thinking about the concepts and common alternative conceptions, (3) development of multiple-choice questions using these alternative conceptions as distractors, (4) validation interviews of novices and subject experts that were not involved with instrument development, and (5) statistical validation. For this presentation, we share preliminary results from step 2, understanding how students think about EP concepts and identifying alternative conceptions. Specifically, we are interested in student understanding of the Food-Energy-Water (FEW) Nexus. FEW Nexus concepts are interdisciplinary and commonly covered in introductory EPs. We are conducting approximately 100 semi-structured interviews with students in introductory EPs across ten higher education institutions. Institutions were chosen as a representative sample of EPs across the US and include baccalaureate colleges (4), master's college and universities (3), and doctoral/research universities (3). Interview data were analyzed thematically in NVivo 12. Preliminary results will show areas of overlap in student thinking and inaccurate understandings of FEW Nexus concepts. The NGCI will be an important assessment tool for EP educators and results will be valuable for evidence-based course content and program development.
12:35 PT / 1:35 MT / 2:35 CT / 3:35 ET
Fostering Agents of Change: Can a local water crisis shift students' values, goals, and priorities?
Jessica Merricks, Elon University
Kelsey Bitting, Elon University

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An overarching goal of the environmental science (ENS) curriculum is to foster a sense of agency and social responsibility. While many ENS students recognize the significance of global threats like climate change and deforestation, fewer are equipped to see themselves as agents of change regarding local environmental issues. To address this problem, we analyzed the impact of a place-based unit on students' metacognitive processing (goal-setting and self-evaluation). Specifically, we addressed the following questions: (1) Does this unit help students recognize themselves agents of change in their local community? (2) Does participation in the unit shift their values, goals, and priorities? (3) Do students understand the real-world implications of the course overall?Before starting the unit, students completed goal-setting and reflection activities in which they detailed their values, personal and professional goals, and reflected on the skills needed to reach those goals. They also related their goals and values to the broad concepts covered in the unit (water cycle, water quality, etc.). During the unit the students investigated an ongoing environmental issue: local residents being exposed to emerging contaminants in their drinking water. They studied the urban water cycle, analyzed field and laboratory data collected by local scientists, and debated the perspectives of stakeholders (e.g. residents, town commissioners, industry leaders, and state and federal agencies). Throughout the unit the students explored ways to engage in advocacy and partnering with the local community. At the end of the unit students completed a second reflection activity in which they discussed the ways in which their knowledge, values, and goals changed. To address our research questions, we completed a qualitative analysis of students' self reflection and goal-setting activities prior to and after the unit. Our results illustrate the impact of guided metacognitive processing and local community engagement on students' development as environmental stewards.
12:50 PT / 1:50 MT / 2:50 CT / 3:50 ET
Evaluating the impact of student storytelling in introductory-level geoscience courses
Erin Kraal, Kutztown University of Pennsylvania
Laura Guertin, Penn State Brandywine

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Knowing the important role introductory-level geoscience courses serve in recruiting majors and improving the science literacy of non-STEM majors, we hypothesized that a Student-Produced Audio Narrative (SPAN) assignment will increase students' personal connection to geoscience course content. We trained a cohort of faculty through our NSF-funded pilot study on how to design an engaging, flexible, and accessible assignment that has students generate and tell stories with simple audio recording and editing techniques. Faculty designed short-term to semester-long scaffolded assignments for students to complete in laboratory or lecture settings, ranging in formats from a radio call-in show to outdoor journey across a landscape. We gathered and analyzed quantitative and qualitative measurements from students that completed a SPAN assignment via a validated pre/post survey and semi-structured interviews. Our analysis of survey data showed that students experienced positive changes in personal relevance, sense of curricular innovation, and future intentions to study science. The student interview data show that the increased views of personal relevance and curricular innovation came from the creativity of this assignment format in an introductory-level geoscience course, as well as the flexibility instructors provided to students for completing their story and resulting audio file. These results show us the potential a SPAN assignment can have in an introductory-level geoscience course in improving student attitudes, engagement, and potential numbers of future geoscience majors.
1:05 PT / 2:05 MT / 3:05 CT / 4:05 ET
Virtual Earth Science: Research-Based Best Practices and Pedagogical Successes in Online Geoscience Courses
Renee Clary, Mississippi State University
Athena Owen Nagel, Mississippi State University
John Ezell, Mississippi State University

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More than a decade ago, research demonstrated that a SCALE approach to curricular development increased student satisfaction and learning gains in online science environments. Instructors optimize online courses when the curriculum incorporates Student-directed research, builds a Community of learners, utilizes Active learning strategies that move students beyond the computer, and includes Local Environments that tap into students' geographic affiliation and/or sense of place. Although learning management systems and e-communication methods have evolved, our research affirms that the SCALE approach retains its relevance in online settings. Self-directed research that includes students' investigation of city water sources, nearby Superfund sites, state geological maps, regional mass wasting events, and local fossil organisms allows students to build their geosciences content upon locally relevant examples. When students share their projects within discussion forums—including selfie images or short video vignettes—learning is extended with a variety of locations and examples. Learners reported satisfaction with their online class community and noted that these research investigations and e-classroom reports provide similar experiences to traditional, face-to-face classroom interactions. Student participation is ensured (and scored) by required review of colleagues' contributions, while instructors also enjoyed scoring unique project assignments. The SCALE method has been extended to include Community Engaged Learning, where students not only research an issue as they learn course content, but their projects also contribute to community solutions. During the pandemic, the SCALE approach provided a smoother transition for traditional courses that were forced online. We propose that the synergistic tension between an established course structure and personalized research flexibility underlies the SCALE effectiveness. Within the past 5 years and numerous unique geosciences courses (N= 15) the SCALE method established its effectiveness by engaging students and instructors, and fostering a traditional, community feel to remote education—making it a preferred curriculum structure for online courses.
1:20 PT / 2:20 MT / 3:20 CT / 4:20 ET
Florida A&M Geo-Science Education: Improving Undergraduate Geo-Science Teacher Preparation using the Multiplication Factor of Micro Spiral Methodology Workshop
Dr. Edith Davis, Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University

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Abstract The COVID 19 Pandemic has adversely affected ever sector of our World. The battered sector of Education has once again taken a major hit in their plight to educate the World's citizens. The transfer of knowledge and information has been delayed, interrupted as well as in some cases stopped. The Micro-Spiral Methodology, which is the recursive repetition of concepts, knowledge, and skills, causes a deeper understanding of concept, knowledge, and skills with each successive encounter building on the previous encounters. Providing Micro-Spiral Method train-the-trainer model, which assisted in reducing absenteeism and loss of instructional time as well how to better encode concepts, knowledge, and skills into the left and right side of the brain. The Micro-Spiral Method can help overcome some adverse effects to the Educational system. The Multiplication Factor are the students that study under Dr. Edith Davis' Micro-Spiral Method. The State of Florida Science Education Scores have risen at their schools. Dr. Davis' students are receiving promotions and raises because they have raised the State Science Education Scores. The MF MSM Workshop will explore some of the results recently discovered.The purpose of this application is to provide pre-service and in-service educators with strategies toward training their undergraduate and graduate students' usage of the multiplication factors of Micro-Spiral Methodologies (MSM) to improve K-12 understanding of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). According to Hanushek, i.e. and others, "the achievement gap in math and reading between white and black students has barely narrowed over the last 50 years, despite nearly a half century of supposed progress in race relations and an increased emphasis on closing such academic discrepancies between groups of students." This trend remains true, also as it relates to the number of African American students pursuing degrees in the STEM areas.
1:35 PT / 2:35 MT / 3:35 CT / 4:35 ET
Draw an Earth Scientist: Investigating the Evolution of Conceptions in Preservice Teachers
Peggy McNeal, Towson University
Deepika Menon, University of Nebraska at Lincoln

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The purpose of this research was to identify preservice teachers' preconceptions about Earth scientists and investigate how these conceptions change after completion of an Earth science course and student investigation of Earth processes. Drawing on theory that supports sketching as a tool to investigate teacher beliefs, we asked 33 preservice elementary and middle school teachers to sketch an Earth scientist on the first day of class. Subsequently the preservice teachers embarked on a course of study aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards for Earth and Space Science for grades K-8. This included topics in weather, climate, geology, and the ocean, which naturally exposed the preservice teachers to a variety of Earth scientists. Furthermore, each preservice teacher conducted an Earth science investigation by generating a weather-related research question, collecting and analyzing authentic data, and presenting findings at a class poster session. Toward the end of the semester, we again asked the preservice teachers to sketch an Earth scientist and provide a brief written explanation. We scored the sketches and responses using an adapted scoring checklist based on the Draw-A-Scientist Test (DAST-C) to identify the preservice teachers' preconceptions and describe how they evolved over the course of the semester. Additionally, we conducted in-depth interviews to more fully understand the process of changing conceptions in two cases. Notably, we found that many preservice teachers began the course with little to no understanding of what an Earth scientist is. We document the evolution of conceptions as the preservice teachers conducted authentic Earth science investigations and participated in the course. We share implications for the design of Earth science courses intended for preservice teachers and broadening understanding of Earth science disciplines. Finally, as we continue to pursue this project, we invite instructors of similar courses to collaborate and contribute to our growing data set.
1:50 PT / 2:50 MT / 3:50 CT / 4:50 ET
A Compilation of Atmospheric and Climate Science Misconceptions
Dawn Kopacz, University of Nebraska at Lincoln
Haeli Leighty, University of Nebraska at Lincoln

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Misconceptions, incorrect or partially correct ideas, can impede the learning process. Therefore, knowledge of existing misconceptions is a critical component of teaching and learning. Project 2061 documented more than 80 weather and climate misconceptions held by middle and high school students, but this tool is not well-known to college instructors. Furthermore, studies of misconceptions related to the atmospheric and climate sciences are scattered across multiple journals making it difficult for educators and education researchers to access this information. As a result, the National Association of Geoscience Teachers (NAGT) Community Framework for Geoscience Education Research (GER) called for a literature review to identify misconceptions in weather and climate science, as well as the populations that hold them (Cervato et al. 2018). In response to this call for research, a total of 212 journal articles were reviewed to identify misconceptions held by students and teachers in the topics of weather, climate and climate change. The goal of this project is to categorize the misconceptions by topic and demographic group, and to identify common misconceptions. Thus far, we have identified 188 climate change misconceptions, nearly a third of which are related to the causes of global warming. Of the 146 weather misconceptions identified, nearly 60% were related to atmospheric composition, and nearly 65% of the 96 climate misconceptions were related to the greenhouse effect. Approximately 70% of the climate change misconceptions were identified by a single research study, with teachers holding 27% of the climate change misconceptions. Further categorization of the weather and climate misconceptions is ongoing.Cervato, C., D. Charlevoix, and A. Gold, 2018: Research on Students' Conceptual Understanding of Environmental, Oceanic, Atmospheric, and Climate Science Content. Community Framework for Geoscience Education Research, K. St. John, Ed., National Association of Geoscience Teachers, 17–34.
2:05 PT / 3:05 MT / 4:05 CT / 5:05 ET
The effects of training spatial skills on student success, efficacy and value in introductory geology students
Annie Klyce, University of South Carolina-Columbia
Katherine Ryker, University of South Carolina-Columbia

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Spatial skills, which represent the ability to mentally manipulate objects, are critical to entrance, persistence and success in STEM fields and the geosciences in particular. While we have a sense of which components of spatial skills are most relevant to geoscientists, most geoscience faculty do not explicitly offer training in these skills and instead assume that they will develop naturally over time. These skills may serve as a filter for who is able to enter and be successful in the geosciences, therefore the lack of intentional spatial development and the lack of understanding in regards to a factor so influential to student success is a clear problem that needs to be addressed. Furthermore, while there is a large body of research that correlates spatial skills with success in STEM, more work needs to be done to understand potential reasons for that correlation to exist. Here, we used control and experimental groups in an embedded multiple-case design approach to train spatial skills in introductory geology courses in Fall 2020 (n = 227) and Spring 2021 (n = 170). Spatial training exercises consisted of previously validated online training modules (Gold et al., 2018). We assessed effects of this training on student outcomes including (1) spatial skill, (2) success in the course, (3) perceived value, and (4) perceived self-efficacy. Efficacy and value were measured through pre- and post-semester surveys. Course success was measured by final course grade. Changes in spatial skill were measured using the Geologic Block Cross-Sectioning Test, Leuven Embedded Figures Test, and the Revised Purdue Spatial Visualization Tests. The understanding developed through this research addresses grand challenges identified as a priority by the geoscience education research community and by geoscience education practitioners through the Community Framework, and can help guide future studies of spatial understanding development in both the geosciences and other disciplines.