2008 Joint Meeting of The Geological Society of America, Soil Science Society of America, American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, Gulf Coast Association of Geological Societies with the Gulf Coast Section of SEPM

Paper No. 2
Presentation Time: 1:45 PM

Refocusing the Revolution: A New Research Agenda for Geoscience Education

LEWIS, Elizabeth B., Division of Curriculum and Instruction, Mary Lou Fulton College of Education, Arizona State University, 203H Payne Hall, Tempe, AZ 85282, Elizabeth.B.Lewis@asu.edu

The geoscience education community has mainly focused its research on cognitive aspects of student learning of geoscience concepts and how to improve instructional practices. While both avenues of educational research are important, less attention has been paid to the socio-cultural aspects of learning from students' perspectives. It also appears that current research efforts have not produced growth in enrollments in secondary or undergraduate geoscience education courses. It may be counterproductive to continue to advocate for geoscience education without a qualitative approach to understanding how students can bridge their own culture and identity to that of geoscientists within a scientific community of practice.

The following research agenda ought to be pursued by geoscience education researchers:

1. Are there cultural aspects of geoscience that discourage diverse students from completing such a degree?

2. How do equity issues in science education affect students' decisions to pursue a geoscience degree as opposed to biology or other fields?

3. How are more humanistic careers, such as teaching high school Earth science, viewed by students and geoscience faculty?

For example, historically the geosciences have failed to produce a critical mass of qualified teacher-advocates to secure a foothold in secondary education. Why? Biology education faced similar low status at the turn of the 20th century, yet has risen to become the highest enrolled science course in high schools nationally with the most number of certified teachers (Lewis, 2008). Without revealing and addressing students' perceptions of geology, the geoscience community may have inadvertently limited access to those who have already been enculturated into scientific practices. Ultimately, the community must broaden the use of a geoscience degree to attract a greater diversity of students and through increased enrollment be better equipped to fuel the revolution in Earth and space science education with more undergraduate majors and well-qualified teachers.