Geology and Environmental Geosciences
Northern Illinois University
My research incorporates methods from psychology and education research traditions to study how students learn in the geosciences. Most of my current work targets students at the introductory level to better understand how spatial thinking and visual representations influence their understanding. Additionally, I am involved with projects on persistence in STEM and using active learning to address equity gaps. NIU is a large Midwestern R2 that serves a high percentage of Pell-eligible, transfer, and first generation students.
Spatial Thinking and Geocognition
Spatial thinking involves how people mentally manipulate information. Spatial skills are related to success in science fields, and particularly in geology. There is convincing evidence that while some students come to college with strong spatial thinking skills, there are ways to train the skills for those who do not. I am currently investigating how these skills relate to problem solving with common geoscience visuals.
Visuals in Science Education
The geosciences rely heavily on a variety of visual representations (such as maps, graphs, diagrams). Some students may struggle with the visuals presented in their geology class. My graduate student is currently investigating the role of spatial skills and sequence diagram interpretation.
Persistence in STEM
NIU received a $1M S-STEM project to support high achieving students with financial need. My graduate students and I are studying how peer support groups influence students' persistence in STEM.
Updated information about the NIU Visualization & Geoscience Education Research Lab can be found here:
Website Content Contributions
Erosion in a River part of GET Spatial Learning:Teaching Activities
× Formative assessment questions using a classroom response system ("clickers") can be used to reveal students' spatial understanding. Students are shown this diagram and instructed to ...
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Linking Time and Space in Geology: The Sedimentary Processes of Transgression and Regression part of GET Spatial Learning:Blog
In geology, space and time are inexorably linked (Kastens & Manduca, 2012; Manduca & Kastens, 2012). The relationship of rock layers vertically and laterally is indicative of large-scale changes in the ...
Conference Presentations (3)
The ENGAGE Workshop: Encouraging Networks between Geoscience and Geoscience Education part of Rendezvous 2015:Program:Abstracts
The geoscience education community has made great strides in the study of teaching and learning at the undergraduate level, particularly with respect to solid earth geology. Nevertheless, the 2012 National ...
A Pilot Study to Assess Chemistry Education in the Geosciences part of Earth Educators Rendezvous:Previous Rendezvous:Rendezvous 2019:Program:Poster Sessions:Wednesday
It is well established that chemistry is an integral discipline underlying many scientific concepts. However, chemistry also presents challenges and misconceptions that act as barriers for many students (Birk & ...
Geo-Needs: A Synthesized Ideal Model for Broadening Participation in the Geosciences at Two-Year and Minority-Serving Institutions part of Earth Educators Rendezvous:Previous Rendezvous:Rendezvous 2016:Program:Poster Sessions:Thursday
Employment opportunities in the geosciences are rapidly expanding, yet underrepresented minorities continue to make up ~8% of the geoscience-related workforce. Our project focuses specifically on the lack of ...
Other Contributions (2)
Engaging Your Students with Visual Representations: Why, What, and How part of Earth Educators Rendezvous:Rendezvous 2021:Program:Morning Workshops:Engaging your students with visual representations: Why, What, and How
Visual-spatial reasoning is important for understanding many of the structures and processes in the geosciences. To make learning more efficient, instructors must engage students using strategies that facilitate ...
Visuospatial Ability and Geologic Mapping: Experts and Novices in the Field part of Structural Geology and Tectonics:2014 Structure and Tectonics Forum Abstracts
Nicole LaDue, Northern Illinois University Heather Petcovic, Western Michigan University Julie Libarkin, Michigan State University D. Zachary Hambrick, Michigan State University Kathleen Baker, Western Michigan ...