Shaping the Future of Geoscience Education Research: A Community Effort

Project No.
PI Name
R. Heather Macdonald
College of William and Mary

Abstract 1

Shaping the Future of Geoscience Education Research: A Community Effort

Presentation Type
Heather Macdonald, College of William and Mary Anthony Feig, Central Michigan University Nicole LaDue, Northern Illinois University Laura Lukes, George Mason University Karen McNeal, North Carolina State University Eric Riggs, Texas A&M University Kristen St John, James Madison University John McDaris, SERC at Carleton College


The project is an extension of the report on Discipline-Based Education Research (DBER; Singer et al., 2012), providing a focus on the current status and future directions of DBER in the geosciences and building on previous education and geoscience education research and synthesis efforts. DBER can be used to support excellence in undergraduate STEM education in general and geoscience education in specific and this effort is designed to engage the GER community.


The goals of the Shaping the Future of Geoscience Education Research Project were to characterize the current state of geoscience education research (GER), identify geoscience education research community needs, and make recommendations to build a stronger GER community and facilitate the next steps in GER. It also provides opportunities for broad GER community input.


We organized a webinar on DBER from the geoscience perspective, facilitated a workshop on モSynthesizing Geoscience Education Research: Where are We, and What is the Path Forwardヤ at the Earth Educatorsメ Rendezvous in July 2015, and are supporting a call for papers for a theme issue in the Journal of Geoscience Education (JGE) on モSynthesizing Results and Defining Future Directions of Geoscience Education Research.ヤ The workshop brought together more than 40 participants including faculty and graduate students who shared an interest in GER. The project is sponsored by the National Association of Geoscience Teachers (NAGT) and the NAGT GER Division.


A video of the webinar on Discipline-based Education Research and Geoscience is posted online ( The workshop introduced a conceptual moel for evaluating the strength of GER community claims, recognizing that an evidence-based approach is an important element of a synthesis of GER. Working groups began the process of characterizing the status of GER in seven overlapping topical areas: conceptual understanding, cognitive domain and problem solving, instructional strategies, affective domain and metacognition, nature of (geo)science, access and success, and professional development of college/university educators. Participants made recommendations for strategies to better support current and future GER researchers including mentors and resources about geoscience education research methods and skills. We recognized the need to better leverage practitioner wisdom and experience to inform GER research and translate research results into practice. We also recognized the importance of interdisciplinary collaborations in GER efforts, especially those that include cognitive scientists and education researchers. The workshop website includes links to presentations and discussions ( A call for manuscripts for the JGE theme issue on �Synthesizing Results and Defining Future Directions of Geoscience Education Research� invites research papers, literature reviews that synthesize the evolution and state of knowledge on topical areas in GER or that synthesize best practices for research methodologies, and manuscripts that address GER community needs.

Broader Impacts

The project provided a focus on the current status and future directions of GER, and ultimately, as research translates into practice, will help in shaping undergraduate geoscience education at the individual, institutional, and national level. The online resources of the project provide access to the community beyond the webinar and workshop participants.

Unexpected Challenges

The project, as proposed, was very ambitious. We made a good start and are following up with additional activities that follow from the workshop.


St John, K., Macdonald, R.H., Feig, A.D., LaDue, N., Lukes, L.A., McNeal, K.S., Riggs, E., and McDaris, J., 2015, Shaping the future of geoscience education research: A community effort: Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs v. 47, no. 7, p. 255.

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