Southeastern Section - 60th Annual Meeting (23–25 March 2011)

Paper No. 7
Presentation Time: 10:20 AM


STEWART, Kevin, Department of Geological Sciences, UNC-Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3315,

At UNC-Chapel Hill, and many other universities, most geology majors are defectors from other majors, and it is the rare student who arrives on campus planning to major in geology. While there are many reasons for this pattern, one important factor is that many high school students are turned off from earth science because they had an unqualified instructor. Most high school earth science teachers do not have a geology degree and these non-expert instructors tend to rely too much on the textbook and teach terminology over processes. In North Carolina many high school earth science teachers are not highly qualified and this fact leads to many students receiving a substandard introduction to geology. To address this problem, as well as similar problems in other sciences and mathematics, UNC-Chapel Hill has developed the UNC Baccalaureate Education in Science and Teaching, known as UNC-BEST ( UNC-BEST is designed to allow students to earn a North Carolina teaching license while they earn a bachelor’s degree in Geological Sciences, Biology, Physics, Chemistry, or Mathematics. The program admitted the first students in Fall 2008 and the first graduates are now teaching. Most UNC-BEST participants are biologists, but the first group of geology UNC-BEST students will graduate Spring 2011.

The difference between the UNC-BEST program and a conventional degree in science education is that the focus of the student’s education is on the science content. Each geology UNC-BEST student takes all of the requirements for the BA in geology as well as a course on pedagogy taught by a geologist in our department. They also take three courses in the School of Education, which are mandated by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, and they do a semester of student teaching. We are hopeful that UNC-BEST will train highly qualified earth science teachers, who will enter the public school system and begin to ameliorate the problem of poorly taught earth science classes.

  • Stewart SEGSA 2011.pptx (4.2 MB)