Monday B: Student Learning: Curriculum Design, Program Design, and DEI

Monday 1:30pm-4:00pm Tate 105

Session Chairs

Brenda Barnes, University of Texas at El Paso
Sharon Cooper, Columbia University in the City of New York
1:30pm
Using Course Observations to Characterize Spatial Thinking in Undergraduate Geology Courses
Stephanie Sabatini, North Carolina State University
David McConnell, North Carolina State University

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Traditional undergraduate education often consists of passive delivery of course content without explicit focus on fostering the development of essential skills. However, in recent years, various STEM disciplines have started to place more emphasis on the development of skills and competencies (e.g., Bralower et al., 2008; Cooper et al., 2015). As part of a larger, convergent mixed methods study to examine how spatial thinking skills are represented, developed, and perceived throughout an undergraduate geology curriculum, we have collected daily course observations to characterize the instruction and practice of spatial thinking skills in core undergraduate geology courses. In doing this research, we explore how instructors foster the development of spatial thinking skills in Historical Geology, Mineralogy, Sedimentology and Stratigraphy, Structural Geology, and Geomorphology courses and across the undergraduate curriculum. In this presentation, we will present our results from the course observation strand of our project, including spatial thinking use (instruction vs. practice), type (extrinsic vs. intrinsic and static vs. dynamic), and skill (e.g., penetrative thinking) within and across undergraduate geology courses. These data show which spatial thinking skills are incorporated into different courses and help identify how students may develop spatial thinking skills across the geology curriculum. As part of the larger project, these results can be compared with student performance on spatial thinking skill tests and with student and instructor interviews. While this study initially aims to describe spatial thinking in one undergraduate geology curriculum, the results have the potential to transfer to other undergraduate-serving universities where similar courses are taught. Additionally, the observation protocol used in this study may be useful as a potential tool for future studies on skill development in the geosciences or in other fields.
1:45pm
A Dynamic Environmental Science Curriculum at the University of New Mexico
Gary Weissmann, University of New Mexico-Main Campus
Corinne Myers, University of New Mexico-Main Campus
Louis Scuderi, University of New Mexico-Main Campus
Lindsay Worthington, University of New Mexico-Main Campus

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The Environmental Science degree at the University of New Mexico provides a successful and dynamic curriculum training students in key skills that support successful careers and graduate studies in environmental and/or Earth science. The curriculum was designed to (1) build a strong and inclusive community of students, (2) teach critical skills, such as GIS, computational, and analytical methods, (3) develop critical research/workplace skills, including presentation, literature search, and scientific method approaches to problem solving, and (4) approach environmental science from a systems science perspective. Courses are designed to scaffold key concepts and analytical skills in environmental science throughout the curriculum, including atmospheric and ocean circulation, biogeochemical cycling, water movement and processes, interactions between the solid and fluid Earth, and interactions and coevolution of life and a dynamic Earth. The portal entry class focuses on the importance of systems thinking and introduces many of the topics that students will be exposed to throughout the major while introducing important skills, such as GIS, quantitative analysis in Excel, literature search, and presentation. Central core courses focus on specific topics or skills needed in environmental science with increasing quantification as students work through the curriculum. These classes always link topics to the Earth systems, and in many cases include Course-based Undergraduate Research Experiences (CUREs) at multiple levels. Topics include Earth Materials, Life in Earth Systems, Water in Earth Systems, Climate Dynamics, and Statistics for Earth Scientists. The capstone course is project-based utilizing skill sets practiced throughout the rest of the curriculum and focuses on a place-based group research project (e.g., methane releases from petroleum production in New Mexico). Assessments support that students are able to quantitatively evaluate aspects of the Earth system, that students experience increased access to research opportunities, and support cohort formation and sense of belonging.
2:00pm
A Coordinated Experiential Learning Program to Broaden Participation by Enhancing Self-Efficacy, geoSTEM Identity, and Career Awareness
Meagen Pollock, College of Wooster
Greg Wiles, College of Wooster
Missy Schen, College of Wooster

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To broaden participation in the geosciences, we developed a coordinated program of summer internships and experiential learning courses that implement evidence-based strategies for increasing students' self-efficacy, geoSTEM identity, and awareness of geoscience careers. Our program consists of three scaffolded interventions: (1) a first-year experiential learning course focusing on professional development, (2) a summer internship for first-year students and near-peer mentors focusing on workforce skills and community partnerships, and (3) an upper-level majors experiential learning course that combines the community partnership with professional development. Interventions employ NSEE's Eight Principles of Good Practice, emphasizing authenticity and reflection. Learning goals and activities overlap, shifting in detail depending on the position within the scaffolded program. Students critically analyze their experiences through informal and formal reflections in which they consider their professional development, lived experiences, identities, and self-efficacy. Preliminary qualitative analysis of reflections suggests that students grew more confident in their abilities to overcome challenges, more likely to see themselves as geoscientists, and more favorably disposed to career paths in the geosciences. Gains differ across the interventions. First-year students in the experiential learning course showed growth in career awareness. Summer internship students showed growth in workforce skills. Upper-level majors showed growth in those areas, self-efficacy, and geoSTEM identity. In assessing geoSTEM identity, some students had a decrease in their alignment with a STEM professional identity, despite reporting stronger geoscience identities. This appeared to result from their awareness of extensive geoscience careers, varied professional skills, and other valued aspects of their identities. An important implication of this finding is that we must consider the complexity of students' intersectional identities when using and assessing identity- and professional development-centered pedagogies. Understanding effective strategies for supporting and retaining underrepresented students at predominantly white primarily undergraduate institutions has significant implications for workforce preparation and broadening participation in the geosciences.
2:15pm
Building an Inclusive Mineralogy Classroom through Alternative Assessment
Katharine Johanesen, Juniata College

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In the spring of 2021, I made a drastic change to my teaching: I dumped grades. I stopped giving numerical or letter-grades on assignments and tests. Instead, I provided only written feedback and asked students to reflect about their learning periodically throughout the semester. The student reflections are followed by one-on-one conferences to discuss and negotiate their grade in the course. Students expressed some apprehension early in the semester, but most of this transitioned to appreciation for ungrading by mid-term. They stated that they were better able to focus on learning and/or it took some pressure off. Through reflections and conferences, I gained a better understanding of why students missed or performed poorly on assignments. By removing numerical grades, I was able to adjust assignments and expectations according to student needs. I was able to shift my focus to supporting students learning rather than measuring them against some hypothetical standard. In the spring of 2022, I used the same reflection-based assessment structure but with a few changes: instead of using the terms exams and quizzes, I revised the language in my course to better describe the purpose of the activity while avoiding some of the anxiety produced by testing. The use of new terminology has prompted deliberate discussions about the purpose of various assignments, which further engages students in thinking about and reflecting on their learning. Student feedback has again been positive and I've noticed more frequent use of words like "engage" and "practice" rather than the more passive phrases associated with "getting" a grade.
2:30pm
Exposure To How an Industry Applies Science
Corine Prieto, VIDL Network

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Modern learning science suggests that reading and studying a topic alone is not sufficient to gain working knowledge. Proficiency is gained through the practice of the topic. Students today face competition from the world market when entering the job market. At VIDL Network, our purpose is to combine online training sessions with real-data-industry-based projects to reinforce learning. Our main objective is to make available to the Professor modules that inform students of what a 'science' can do, how it is used and why. The University professors can design via the VIDL Network class supplements or laboratory techniques to accomplish a level of proficiency. They have options regarding how to navigate the VIDL Network website: - Individual module(s) can be selected to discuss a specific topic for a segment of the course. - Series of modules consisting of text & videos are available that introduce students to various science applications. Examples would be a 9-video series on Airborne Gravity Gradiometry, a 4-video series Introduction to Radiometric Data Acquisition or a 3-video series on Contouring an Isopach Map. - There are number of modules with corresponding projects. The Professor can select based on the level of expertise of the student. Example would be a 2-module with project on Stormwater Environmental Compliance. VIDL Network has also built a Resources Center available to the student and Professor. In the Center is a Reference Library which can be used to develop reading lists. We have started to build a 3D Bouguer Gravity database available for download which can be used for various geophysical/geological studies. The VIDL Network has over 90 modules on various topics: introduction to geophysical techniques, specific data enhancement techniques; discussion and definition of geophysical/geological basement structure; qualitative interpretation of datasets such as radiometrics, gravity/magnetics, organic chemistry lab tools and environmental compliance.
2:45pm
Providing Real-World Environmental Experience in the Undergraduate Classroom
Brenda Barnes, University of Texas at El Paso

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A mixture of group activities, targeted discussions and completion of real-world tasks/projects provides students in our Environmental Policy and Law course with an edge over other job applicants. Informational modules and projects developed and available online by VIDL Network provide hands-on environmental consulting experience to students.Informational modules regarding the basics of an environmental topic are initially reviewed by the students individually through the VIDL Network online platform. The students then work through a "project" in small groups to complete each of the actual steps required to develop the "project deliverable" which is comparable to what would be provided to a client by an environmental consulting company or in-house environmental compliance staff. Discussions are held in class periods of each of the steps that go into each project to ensure that students understand the material.Two units using the VIDL modules/projects are completed by students during the semester. Students review online informational modules about Environmental Compliance and Industrial Stormwater Pollution Prevention within the VIDL Network website. Students are then assigned to groups of two to four to develop an Industrial Stormwater Pollution Prevention plan (SWPPP) for a theoretical industrial facility with multiple stormwater features in the VIDL website. The students work through each of the steps an environmental professional would complete when developing a real-world SWPPP.The second VIDL unit includes a review of modules about environmental due diligence and the Phase I Environmental Site Assessment (ESA) process. Students work in their groups to complete the various tasks that go into preparation of an actual Phase I ESA report. Upon completion of the project, students come away with an in-depth understanding of the due diligence/Phase I ESA process, having actually worked through a real-life scenario and applied their new-found knowledge to develop and complete the ESA.
3:00pm
IGUaNA: Introducing Geophysics for Urban and Near-surface Applications
Carol Ormand Ph.D., Carleton College
Sarah Kruse, University of South Florida
Andrew Parsekian, University of Wyoming
Lee Slater, Rutgers University-Newark
Danielle Sumy, IRIS
John Taber, IRIS Consortium
Tonian Robinson, University of South Florida
Christine Downs, Sandia National Labs

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Recruiting and retaining a diverse workforce begins with attracting a diverse student population into the geosciences. One key step in this process is transforming our curricula, looking beyond traditional topics and approaches. The IGUaNA project, Introducing Geophysics for Urban and Near-surface Applications, has developed a set of curricular modules that apply seismic, electrical resistivity, and ground penetrating radar techniques to societally-relevant, real-world problems. These materials were developed through a collaboration of IRIS Education and Public Outreach, geophysics faculty members, and the Science Education Resource Center (SERC), building on expertise in both geophysics and pedagogy. The modules develop students' quantitative and critical thinking skills by using authentic datasets to evaluate salt marsh pollution and restoration, locate and identify historical burial grounds and urban infrastructure, and inform an urban renewal planning process. Teaching materials are designed for introductory-level undergraduate courses such as earth science, environmental science, geology, geophysics, physics, engineering, geography, or chemistry. Optional parts of the modules also provide instruction in having the students collect their own data sets, and IRIS has some field equipment which can be borrowed to collect the data. These NSF-funded resources have been peer-reviewed and pilot tested in a variety of undergraduate classrooms, revised based on feedback from instructors and students, and published on the SERC-hosted project website. Data from pilot testing shows positive impacts on students' confidence in solving geophysical problems as well as their interest in geophysics and related careers. A module on gravity and magnetic methods and an accompanying module on geophysics careers are in development.
3:15pm
STEMSEAS: Case studies of Student Impact
Sharon Cooper, Columbia University in the City of New York
Jon Lewis, Indiana University of Pennsylvania-Main Campus

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The Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics Student Experiences Aboard Ships (STEMSEAS) Project leverages unused capacity during non-operational transits of ships in the U.S. academic fleet to provide undergraduate students with exposure to and experience with science, careers and life at sea. Since 2016 we have sailed >135 students on seven vessels operated by the University National Oceanographic Laboratories System (UNOLS). In this time STEMSEAS has become significantly connected to existing STEM programs and assets in ways that highlight the power of occupying a STEM ecosystem "node" dedicated to: (1) creating synergies; (2) broadening participation; and (3) growing the STEM ecosystem. STEMSEAS has been successful in recruiting diverse cohorts of undergraduate students, many from historically underrepresented groups in STEM fields, including Black and Latinx students, and those from community colleges and first generation college students.This presentation will share several case studies of the impact of STEMSEAS on individual student trajectories. It will reflect on the power of this kind of transformative, out-of-the-classroom learning experience on students and the components of the experience that lend themselves to long-term effects. We will share mentoring strategies, learning philosophies, relationship building, and recruiting best practices that STEMSEAS has gained over its 5-year existence and how it plans to build on these into the future.
3:30pm
Your compelling story - increasing scientific and mapping literacy in breadth requirement classes
Lisa Tutty, Lakehead University

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I teach approximately 1000 non-science students each semester. Increasing their scientific literacy and mapping skills are important goals. As such, I created the "Your compelling story" assignment. Through the four stages of the assignment - map tutorials, rough draft (x2), individual map, and Story Map - the students are led to produce a high quality Story Map about one of several assigned topics. I make use of peer review at the initial rough draft stage and one hour of teaching assistant or instructor time is needed to grade each student through the entire process. Consistency amongst teaching staff is achieved using benchmarking sessions and detailed marking rubrics. The assignment handout itself is a Story Map and it includes many helpful aspects such as library resources, videos about peer review in journals, sample maps, and links to practice assignments. The students are much more excited about producing a professional looking Story Map than yet another essay, and they can easily share their hard work with friends and family. https://arcg.is/0zivzG
3:45pm
Online content 'miner's - approaches to enhance student engagement, learning, and critical thinking
David Harwood, University of Nebraska at Lincoln

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Student engagement and learning is enhanced through exploration and 'mining' internet content, specifically short videos shared and discussed asynchronously with peers. This approach enables students to follow their curiosity and invest in their learning across course-related themes in GEOL 125: Frontiers of Antarctic Geosciences. Students are exposed to a range of rich and visual content that brings Antarctica, scientific research activities, and topical subjects into clear focus. Students conclude each of four themes by developing high-level questions that enhance and focus student discussion boards, fostering enriched and shared learning. Students welcome freedom to explore topics of interest to them within the general flow of course material, and connections made between students with similar interests. The instructor regards well-developed student-generated questions as perhaps more important than the eventual 'answers', as the ability to frame complex questions is an important step in insightful critical thinking, and discovery of new knowledge. Students pursue what interests them, and instructors highlight and expand upon the best materials students bring forward. Teaching with student-identified content requires that instructors 'let-go' to build upon student curiosity, and add key foundational content in reflection and close-out summaries. These are developmental steps toward personal skillsets and joy in lifelong learning. Three main takeaways from this session: (1) session attendees may be inspired to support the inclusion of student-identified online resources into the framework of their course delivery; (2) student engagement is enhanced if they control and invest in elements of their learning, and see instructors responding to what they contribute; (3) student-generated questions have great value as the entry point for discussion-board posts, as they fosters inquiry and critical thinking in their peers and themselves.