Geoscience Education Research (GER) is research on how humans think and learn about the Earth and environment. GER researchers merge deep expertise in the concepts, practices, values and priorities of the Geosciences with rigorous research methodologies from cognitive and learning sciences.
GER matters to geoscientists and future geoscientists because: (a) it can make you a better educator, and (b) it can make you a better scientist. For educators, GER provides empirical evidence about which teaching strategies are more effective at helping learners overcome common misconceptions, master scientific practices, and build their sense of self-efficacy as geoscientists. For geoscience researchers, GER provides insights into how your mind perceives and interprets aspects of the world. No matter what other tools you use to do your science, the single indispensable tool of every scientist is the human mind.
GER sits within the broader field of discipline-based education research, along with Biology Education Research, Chemistry Education Research and so on. GER researchers have been particularly impactful in studying those aspects of science where geoscientists' ways of seeking truth tend to differ from the experimental sciences. These include spatial thinking, temporal thinking, systems thinking, and field-based research. Spatial thinking involves drawing inferences from spatial configurations and relationships. For example, one thread of the speaker's research examines how experts and novices interpret map-based data visualizations, turning blotches of color into inferences about process and mechanism. Temporal thinking involves drawing inferences from information about timing, rates, and sequence. An emerging area of research in systems thinking is how do experts and novices conceptualize positive and negative feedback loops. Field-based research places students in physical and social situations far different from the typical academic milieu. An active area of research is how to make such learning accessible to students with mobility limitations and comfortable for students whose upbringing did not include time in wilderness settings.
This talk will present an overview of the development of this young field, illustrated with examples that showcase the kinds of questions that GER is capable of addressing, along with the variety of techniques in use. The goal of the talk is that audience members will be inspired to seek out geoscience education research findings relevant to their own areas of interest, and use them to become more effective educators and more insightful scientists.