Carol Ormand

Science Education and Research Associate

Science Education Resource Center, Carleton College
Download my curriculum vitae (Acrobat (PDF) 188kB Jul11 18)

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. Evaluating geoscience education research projects;
  3. Developing curricular materials that incorporate what we know from research on learning; and
  4. Faculty professional development.

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.

Evaluating Geoscience Education Research

Field based professional development for Environmental-STEM (ESTEM) undergraduates
This project 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 collect and analyze the data that will allow us to measure the success of the project in achieving these goals.

Curriculum Development

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WILSIM-GC: Web-based Interactive Simulation Model of the Grand Canyon
WILSIM-GC is an interactive computer simulation designed to help undergraduate students understand and visualize the geologic processes that interacted to form the Grand Canyon over the past 10 million years. I built the project website and helped develop the inquiry-based curricular materials that accompany the model.
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Neotoma is a Paleoecology Database. I organized and facilitated a workshop to develop teaching activities that use the database to understand the effects of climate change on plant and animal distributions.

Faculty Professional Development

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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.
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Building Strong Geoscience Departments
I was a co-PI on the Building Strong Geoscience Departments project. My responsibilities included developing our online collections of resources and facilitating the associated workshops.
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On the Cutting Edge
I started working for SERC in the fall of 2005. I had been a visiting assistant professor at a couple of small liberal arts colleges for the previous five years, so I was well-prepared for my first assignment: developing websites of resources for Early Career Faculty in the Geosciences and for graduate students and postdocs Preparing for an Academic Career in the Geosciences. Other websites I've developed for this project include the Role of Metacognition in Learning, Developing Student Understanding of Complex Systems in the Geosciences, Teaching About Rates and Time, and Spatial Thinking in the Geosciences. I also help facilitate the associated Cutting Edge workshops. In particular, I have supported the On the Cutting Edge annual workshops for Early Career Faculty in the Geosciences and for graduate students and postdocs Preparing for an Academic Career in the Geosciences about a half-dozen times each. I have also helped facilitate several of the topical workshops and online journal clubs, and have co-convened some of the topical workshops.
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Developing Competency in Teaching Computation using MATLAB
I helped facilitate workshops in 2015 and 2017 for faculty working to strengthen undergraduate students' computation skills, particularly using MATLAB. The 2017 workshop brought together faculty from across the STEM disciplines.
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Transforming Geoscience Preparation for K-8 Pre-Service Teachers
I helped organize a 2016 workshop bringing together science and education faculty involved in science teacher preparation programs and in-service science teachers. I also built the associated Transforming Geoscience Preparation for K-8 Pre-Service Teachers project website, hosting materials for faculty in science teacher preparation programs and materials for K-8 teachers.
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Programs that Bring Together Geoscience and Sustainability
The InTeGrate project supports the teaching of geoscience in the context of societal issues. I helped facilitate the May 2012 InTeGrate workshop on Programs that Bring Together Geoscience and Sustainability. This workshop built on outcomes from some of the program-level Building Strong Geoscience Departments workshops.


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 preparation

  • Ormand, Carol J., Thomas F. Shipley, Charles Kiven, and J. Steve Davis. Insights into the Novice-Expert Spectrum in Visual Penetrative Ability from the Geologic Block Cross-sectioning Test. In preparation for submission to the Journal of Geoscience Education.
  • 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.




  • Baer, Eric M.D., Robert H. Blodgett, Norlene R. Emerson, Jan Hodder, Ellen Iverson, John R. McDaris, R. Heather Macdonald, and Carol J. Ormand (2019). SAGE 2YC Regional Workshops: Disseminating Educational Practices, Developing Leadership, and Building Communities: Geological Society of America annual meeting (Phoenix, AZ). See abstract.
  • Dutrow, Barbara L. and Carol J Ormand. (2019). The Complexity of Teaching Mineralogy: 3-D Visualization and Spatial Skills (Invited Presentation): Geological Society of America annual meeting (Phoenix, AZ). See abstract.
  • Hodder, Jan, R. Heather Macdonald, Eric Baer, Rachel Beane, Debra Bragg, Norlene Emerson, Ellen Iverson, John McDaris, Kristin O'Connell, Carol J. Ormand (2019). Engaging Two-year Geoscience College Faculty to Promote Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion: The SAGE 2YC Project (Acrobat (PDF) 2.4MB Feb27 19): Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography meeting (Puerto Rico).
  • Iverson, Ellen, Debra Bragg, Pamela Eddy, Kristin O'Connell, R. Heather Macdonald, Eric M.D. Baer, Norlene R. Emerson, Jan Hodder, John R. McDaris, and Carol J. Ormand (2019). The Influence of SAGE 2YC Professional Development on Teaching, Leadership, and Campus and Regional Dissemination: Geological Society of America annual meeting (Phoenix, AZ). See abstract.
  • McDaris, John, Eric Baer, Norlene Emerson, Jan Hodder, R. Heather Macdonald, and Carol J. Ormand (2019). Synthesizing lessons for creating change in faculty, programs, institutions, and regional networks: SAGE 2YC Faculty as Change Agents: Earth Educators' Rendezvous (Nashville, TN). See abstract.
  • McDaris, John R., R. Heather Macdonald, Carol J. Ormand, Ellen R. Iverson, Eric M.D. Baer, and Jan Hodder (2019). Increasing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in Two-Year College Geoscience: Lessons Learned from the SAGE 2YC Project: American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting (San Francisco, CA). See abstract.
  • Ormand, Carol J., John McDaris, R. Heather Macdonald, Eric Baer, Norlene Emerson, and Jan Hodder (2019). SAGE 2YC Materials for Faculty Professional Development Workshops: Earth Educators' Rendezvous (Nashville, TN). See abstract.
  • Ormand, Carol J., R. Heather Macdonald, John R. McDaris, Jan Hodder, Eric M.D. Baer, and Norlene R. Emerson (2019). SAGE 2YC Virtual Professional Development for Geoscience Faculty in Two-Year Colleges: Engaging Faculty in Exploration of Evidence-Based Practices: Geological Society of America annual meeting (Phoenix, AZ). See abstract.
  • Orr, Cailin Huyck, Sean P. Fox, and Carol J. Ormand (2019). Teach the Earth: Portal for Geoscience Education Resources (PowerPoint 2007 (.pptx) 2.1MB Feb5 19): Geoscience Alliance meeting (Phoenix, AZ).