Who are we?
The Science Education Resource Center (SERC) works to improve education through projects that support educators. Although our work has a particular emphasis on undergraduate Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education, we work with educators across a broad range of disciplines and at all educational levels. An office of Carleton College, our work is funded primarily through National Science Foundation grants. The office has special expertise in effective pedagogies, geoscience education, community organization, workshop leadership, digital libraries, website development and program and website evaluation.
Collaboration with others is a fundamental part of SERC's work. The website content available through serc.carleton.edu has been developed primarily through collaboration with projects and individuals. We offer website support to projects such as the Earth Exploration Toolbook and organizations like Project Kaleidocope and the National Association of Geoscience Teachers. Our evaluation portfolio includes projects such as Faculty Participation in the NSDL, the Landscape Change Program , and the The Mathematical Association of America Convergence Online Magazine. Individuals are encouraged to collaborate with SERC by contributing activities, reviewing modules, or taking advantage of paid editorial or fellow positions when they are available.
What do we do?
SERC's services to the education community lie in four primary areas.
- Faculty Professional Development
Through projects such as On the Cutting Edge Professional Development for Geoscience Faculty, CLEAN Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness Network, InTeGrate:Interdisciplinary Teaching of Geoscience for a Sustainable Future, SAGE 2YC and Starting Point: Teaching Introductory Geoscience, SERC and its collaborators offer a wide range of professional development opportunities for geoscience educators to stay up to date on both geoscience content and pedagogy. We partner with leaders in other disciplines to support similar opportunities for the STEM educational community more broadly through projects such as the SERC Pedagogic Service, Starting Point: Teaching and Learning Economics, Teaching Genomics at Small Colleges, and Microbial Life Educational Resources.
- Bringing Science into Broader Use
Together with our partners, we develop innovative resources that bring scientific research into use in education and by the public. Our staff has put together collections relating to geohazards such as tsunamis and hurricanes as well as other resources for teaching with visualizations. We also play a supporting role in projects such as the Earth Exploration Toolbook, EarthLabs, Integrating Research and Education, and Microbial Life Education Resources which assist high school and college teachers in using scientific data and research results in their teaching.
- Community Visioning
Bringing groups of people together around particular issues to find consensus and a shared vision of future activity is a hallmark of SERCs work. Initiated with our work in the geosciences (see, for example, Building Strong Geoscience Departments), these skills are also brought to bear on more generalized issues in STEM education (see, for example, Using Data in the Classroom, Reconsidering the Textbook, Restrospective Essays on a Decade of Building a National Science Digital Library to Transform STEM Education).
- Research on Learning
SERC is engaged in research projects that seek to develop a stronger understanding of student learning in geoscience and STEM courses as well as how faculty learn about pedagogical practices. Projects such as Bringing Research on Learning to the Geosciences and Cutting Edge: Classroom Observation Project bring together experts in the cognitive and learning sciences with educators with "front line" experience and engage faculty in educational research
How do we do what we do?
SERC has developed expertise with a number of tools to help us achieve our goals.
Workshops are an excellent way to bring people together to learn from one another or to develop a community vision and action plan. They also provide a lower-distraction environment for busy faculty members to come together and create new educational materials or address a particular pedagogical issue. SERC is involved in a wide variety of workshops ranging from one time opportunities (Chronos Workshop), topical series (Teaching Quantitative Skills) to an integrated workshop series aimed at holistic professional development (On the Cutting Edge).
- Web Resources
SERC has developed websites on scales from a few pages supporting a workshop (e.g. Cows, Colleges, and Curriculum) to large integrated sites with thousands of pages serving millions of users each year (e.g. Content Management System which is specifically designed to enable educators across the country to share their knowledge in formats that support easy use by teachers and faculty. The CMS incorporates digital library tools that enable easy referencing, reorganizing and reuse of resources to facilitate the development of new ideas that build on past work. These tools also make web resources on SERC sites easy to find with Google and shareable with other educational digital libraries. SERC websites are a great way to disseminate best-practices (Starting Point: Teaching Introductory Geoscience) and provide access to new educational and science research (Cutting Edge: Discoveries from Mars). They also provide new ways of introducing real data (Using Data in the Classroom) and authentic research into the classroom.
- Development and Assessment of Curriculum Materials SERC is working with teams of faculty to create and test new curriculum materials that bring together cutting edge science and research-based pedagogy. This strategy is most fully developed by the InTeGrate STEP center which has developed a design rubric, testing procedure, and shared evaluation instruments.
- Evaluation and Research
SERC engages in research and evaluation to guide its work. We have used interviews, focus groups and other qualitative measures as well as quantitative instruments such as surveys and polls along with web statistics to understand how faculty think about teaching, how they use the web, what they find useable and useful in our websites, and how they impact their teaching. We also engage in the programmatic evaluation of professional development programs and web resources developed by other programs around the country.
SERC has been a major contributor to a culture among faculty teaching undergraduate geoscience education that supports learning from one another and sharing resources. The SERC Teach the Earth Portal which aggregates resources across all of our Geoscience collaborations contains more than 4000 teaching activities developed and contributed by faculty. Through the On the Cutting Edge project this community is successfully reviewing these activities to make the best resources more easily identifiable and to recognize the contributions of their creators. Multiple professional development workshop programs in the geosciences make use of the model pioneered by On the Cutting Edge for engaging faculty in learning from one another and sharing resource through workshop websites.
SERC now hosts one of the largest on-line collections of resources on teaching methods. Aimed primarily at undergraduate STEM faculty, these resources were visited by more than 4 million users last year demonstrating their value well beyond geosciences or higher education. Evaluation studies show that the website increases instructors knowledge of and confidence in using pedagogies that actively engage their students in learning. The fact that these resources are authored by faculty, for faculty is a major contributor to their impact. The SERC website and its content management system allow faculty authored resources to be aggregated and organized into searchable collections both within and across disciplines. By making these tools widely available, SERC has developed a model to that sustains its work while providing needed dissemination of materials and practices developed across the disciplines.
More information about the web sites found at serc.carleton.edu.