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SAGE Musings: Lessons from Biology Education

Jan Hodder, University of Oregon
published Apr 26, 2018 7:44am

The biological science education community has undergone considerable efforts to reform how science is taught, using evidence-based strategies to enable all students to be successful. One well-published practitioner is Dr. Kimberley Tanner at San Francisco State University. This Musing highlights some of her work that is pertinent to geoscience teaching. I encourage you to take a look at her publications and consider how to incorporate some of her suggestions into your teaching.

Tanner provides practical advice on how to incorporate equity, diversity, and inclusivity in the classroom in Structure Matters: Twenty-One Teaching Strategies to Promote Student Engagement and Cultivate Classroom Equity. She provides 21 evidence-based strategies that instructors can use to structure classroom environments that provide all students with opportunities to participate and to make personal connections to content, as well as time to think, pose ideas, and construct knowledge. These strategies also explicitly welcome all students into the intellectual discussions. The strategies are organized into five sections:

  • Giving students opportunities to think and talk;
  • Encouraging, demanding, and actively managing the participation of all students;
  • Building an inclusive and fair classroom community for all students;
  • Monitoring behavior to cultivate divergent thinking; and
  • Teaching all of the students in your classroom.

Each section has multiple ideas for how to accomplish the desired outcome. For example, her suggestions for building an inclusive and fair classroom community for all students include making it explicit that you are doing this so that students and instructors are on the same side of the teaching and learning process; encouraging small group work; integrating culturally diverse and relevant examples in your teaching; and learning all student names. The paper also provides a self-assessment rubric.

Tanner and her colleague, Gloriana Trujillo, have also explored the concepts of students' self-efficacy, sense of belonging, and science identity. In their paper, Considering the Role of Affect in Learning: Monitoring Students' Self-Efficacy, Sense of Belonging, and Science Identity, they provide a framework for instructors who wish to collect informal classroom evidence that could give them insights into their students' related to these topics. For each of the three topics they discuss published studies, and they describe the intentions of the researchers, the tools they used, and key findings. Discussion of the tools, such as the Motivational Strategies for Learning Questionnaire (MSLQ; Pintrich et al., 1991) and the Sources of Self-Efficacy in Science Courses–Physics (SOSEC-P; Fencl and Scheel, 2005), provide examples of how they could be adapted to other disciplines to explore a student's self-efficacy and sense of belonging. There is, as of this writing, no standardized instrument to gauge a student's adoption of science identity. Rather, the paper discuses some key findings, mostly from interviews and case studies, that give ideas for how different groups of students develop their science identity. Some common findings from these studies are the importance of science support experienced outside formal course work, such as research experiences, community involvement, and mentoring; instructor encouragement to take science courses; and discussions of the benefits of being a scientist. For faculty looking to explore the affective domain, this paper, and additional resources provided at the Student Motivations and Attitudes: The Role of the Affective Domain in Geoscience Learning site, provide a strong foundation.

These two very practically oriented publications are easily translated to geoscience teaching situations and provide instructors with many ideas to incorporate into their classrooms to improve student success.


References

Fencl, Heidi and Scheel, Karen. 2005. Engaging students: an examination of the effects of teaching strategies on self-efficacy and course climate in a nonmajors physics course. Journal of College Science Teaching, v. 35, n.1, pp. 20 – 24.

Kirk, Karin. 2016. Student Motivations and Attitudes: The Role of the Affective Domain in Geoscience Learning. Science Education Resource Center (SERC). Retrieved April 23, 2018, from https://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/affective/index.html.

Pintrich, Paul R., Smith, David A.F., Garcia, Teresa, and McKeachie, Wilbert J. 1991. A Manual for the Use of the Motivated Strategies for Learning Questionnaire (MSLQ). National Center for Research to Improve Postsecondary Teaching and Learning, Ann Arbor, MI. pp. 1 – 76.

Tanner, Kimberly D. 2013. Structure Matters: Twenty-One Teaching Strategies to Promote Student Engagement and Cultivate Classroom Equity. CBE — Life Sciences Education, v. 12, pp. 322 – 331.

Trujillo, Gloriana and Tanner, Kimberly D. 2014. Considering the Role of Affect in Learning: Monitoring Students' Self-Efficacy, Sense of Belonging, and Science Identity. CBE — Life Sciences Education, v. 13, pp. 6 – 15.



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