Carol Ormand

Science Education and Research Associate

Science Education Resource Center, Carleton College
Download my curriculum vitae (Acrobat (PDF) 199kB Jan27 20)

What I Do * Background * Education * Publications


What I Do


My work at SERC has several components, each of which supports SERC's overall mission: improving science education at the college and university level. These components are:

  1. Conducting research on learning (specifically, on spatial thinking) in the undergraduate science classroom;
  2. Faculty professional development;
  3. Developing curricular materials that incorporate what we know from research on learning; and
  4. Evaluating geoscience education research projects.

Research on Spatial Thinking

Since 2008, I've been involved in research on spatial thinking in the geosciences. This research has led to some exciting opportunities, including leading a workshop on Supporting Spatial Thinking at the 2018 Earth Educators' Rendezvous; co-leading a workshop with Eric Riggs on Spatial Reasoning in the Geosciences at the 2016 Earth Educators' Rendezvous; co-convening the 2013 Hedberg Conference on 3D Structural Geologic Interpretation; and co-convening the 2012 On the Cutting Edge Spatial Thinking Journal Club.

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GET Spatial Learning Network
The Geoscience Education Transdisciplinary Spatial Learning Network is a collaboration of cognitive psychologists, education researchers, and geoscience educators working to develop educational tools that can help students, across classroom and field settings, to better understand and build upon historically difficult geoscience concepts. We expect that this research will improve retention and learning in geosciences, and will also inform efforts to improve learning in the other Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) domains that require spatial thinking.
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Spatial Thinking Workbook
I am the lead PI on the Spatial Thinking Workbook project (with co-PIs Basil Tikoff and Tim Shipley). Working with geoscience faculty members and a team of cognitive scientists, we have developed a suite of curricular materials to improve spatial thinking skills in upper-level undergraduate geoscience courses.
SILC: the Spatial Intelligence and Learning Center
Basil, Tim and I are also involved in research through SILC (the Spatial Intelligence and Learning Center). For this project, we are investigating the breadth of spatial thinking skills and characterizing their development in individuals ranging from novices to experts. This has led to developing two instruments for assessing geoscience students' spatial thinking skills: the Geologic Block Cross-sectioning Test and the Crystal Slicing Test. Email me if you are interested in using either of these instruments to assess your students' spatial skills.

Faculty Professional Development

The work I do in faculty professional development includes managing faculty PD projects; convening or leading workshops; and building websites to support faculty in adopting evidence-based practices in teaching.

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SAGE 2YC: Faculty as Change Agents
SAGE 2YC: Supporting and Advancing Geoscience Education in Two-Year Colleges laid the groundwork for the SAGE 2YC: Faculty as Change Agents project. Two-year colleges (2YCs) play crucial roles in meeting the nation's geoscience and STEM workforce needs and in increasing public scientific literacy. 2YCs enroll over 45% of all U.S. undergraduates and serve a large number of women, minority, and first-generation college students. In addition, the 2YC teaching environment is one of the most challenging as community colleges are primarily open-access intuitions that serve an extremely diverse student body; teaching loads are heavy; there is an increasing use of adjunct faculty; and there is limited support for participation in professional development activities, widely recognized as the source for many critical improvements for improving student learning. The SAGE 2YC project seeks to make an impact in this important area by building a national network of self-sustaining local communities of 2YC geoscience faculty and administrators who use evidence-based strategies to improve all students' academic success, broaden participation, and facilitate students' professional pathways into the STEM workforce. I am the project manager.

Curriculum Development

I have served as a consultant for several curriculum development projects.

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IGUaNA: Introducing Geophysics for Urban and Near-surface Applications
The IGUaNA project team is in the process of developing teaching materials for introductory-level undergraduate geophysics courses. These materials will feature the applications of geophysical techniques to societally-relevant, real-world problems. The project team brings deep expertise in geophysics content and pedagogy to the development of the project materials. Each of the course modules will be peer-reviewed, tested in undergraduate classrooms, revised, and then shared via the project website.

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IODP 2020 School of Rock
The IODP School of Rock moved online in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. A cohort of K-12 teachers from across the US learned about the 2050 Framework for Scientific Ocean Drilling, which will guide the next 30 years of ocean drilling research. The teachers then developed curricular materials for their students based on cutting edge scientific questions and data collected by ocean drilling expeditions.

Evaluating Geoscience Education Research

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Field based professional development for Environmental-STEM (ESTEM) undergraduates
E-STEM reimagines the traditional geology field course as a professional development experience to address the emergence of new "environmental" geoscience tracks at many 4YCUs. Existing STEM retention and diversity programs have recognized access to field and professional experiences as critical to helping students identify as scientists, form networks, and gain important skills necessary for employment in a variety of public and private sectors. The goal of this project is to engage a diverse cohort of Environmental-STEM (ESTEM) track undergraduates at 4-year colleges and universities (4YCUs) and community colleges (2YCs) in hands-on, career-applicable experiences that will launch students into the geoscience workforce. My role is to oversee the collection  and analysis of the data that will allow us to measure the success of the project in achieving these goals.


Science Education Resource Center, Carleton College, Northfield, MN, 2005-present 
Visiting Assistant Professor, Wittenberg University, Springfield, OH, 2002-2005 
Visiting Assistant Professor, St. Norbert College, De Pere, WI, 2000-2002 
Graduate Assistant, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, 1992-2000 
Adjunct Instructor, Carleton College, Northfield, MN, 1997


Ph. D. in Structural Geology, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, 2000

  • Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award, Dept. of Geology & Geophysics

B. A. in Mathematics, Carleton College, Northfield, MN, 1989

  • Graduated Cum Laude; Member, Sigma Xi (Scientific Honor Society)

Publications and Presentations

Geoscience Education

In review

  • Ormand, Carol J., R. Heather Macdonald, Janet Hodder, Debra D. Bragg, Eric M. D. Baer, and Pamela L. Eddy. Making Departments Diverse, Equitable, and Inclusive: Engaging Colleagues in Departmental Transformation Through Discussion and Implementation Groups. Submitted to the Journal of Geoscience Education.

In preparation

  • Ormand, Carol J., Thomas F. Shipley, Basil Tikoff, and Cathryn A. Manduca. Developing a Valid, Reliable Psychometric Test of Visual Penetrative Ability: The Geologic Block Cross-sectioning Test. In preparation for submission to the Journal of Geoscience Education.



  • Guertin, Laura, Kristie Bradford, Hillary Goodner, Karen Helgers, Beth A. Johnson, Megan Jones, Kaatje Kraft, Karen Layou, Carol J. Ormand, Waverly Ray, Daina Hardisty, and Elizabeth Nagy (2021). Report on Unlearning Racism in Geoscience from the 2YC URGE Pod: Earth Educators' Rendezvous (Online).
  • Guertin, Laura, Carol J. Ormand, Beth A. Johnson, Elizabeth Nagy, Karen Helgers, Katrien J. van der Hoeven Kraft, and Karen M. Layou (2021). Attracting, Supporting, and Preparing BIPOC Students for Early Success in Geoscience: Policies, Curricular Materials, and Other Resources from the 2YC URGE Pod: Geological Society of America (Portland, OR).
  • Kruse, Sarah, Carol J. Ormand, Andrew D. Parsekian, Lee Slater, Danielle F. Sumy, and John Taber (2021). Using Geophysics to Address Societally-Relevant, Urban and Environmental Questions in Introductory-Level Geoscience Courses: GAGE/SAGE (UNAVCO/IRIS) workshop (Online).
  • Ormand, Carol J., Sarah Kruse, Andrew D. Parsekian, Lee Slater, Danielle F. Sumy, and John Taber (2021). Making Geoscience Relevant: Using Geophysics to Address Societally-Relevant, Urban and Environmental Questions in Introductory-level Geoscience Courses: Geological Society of America (Portland, OR).