Paper No. 12
Presentation Time: 4:00 PM


TEWKSBURY, Barbara J., Dept of Geosciences, Hamilton College, Clinton, NY 13323-1218, MANDUCA, Cathryn, Science Education Resource Center, Carleton College, 1 North College Street, Northfield, MN 55057, MOGK, David W., Dept. of Earth Sciences, Montana State University, Bozeman, MT 59717 and MACDONALD, R. Heather, Department of Geology, College of William and Mary, PO Box 8795, Williamsburg, VA 23187,

Over the past 50 years, geoscience education has evolved in a number of important ways in terms of what we teach, whom we teach, and how we teach. What we teach has changed focus from traditional geology to the geosciences more broadly defined, including the impact of Earth processes on a growing world population and the impacts of that population on the Earth. The importance of the geosciences to decisions critical to our human future is incorporated into courses, textbooks, and curricula. Although preparation of a professional geologic workforce remains an important focus of geoscience education, geoscience literacy to enable all citizens to make informed decisions related to geoscience topics has become an important goal underpinned by national policy documents. How we teach has also changed. Although great teaching and strategies for effective teaching are not new, what has developed over the past 50 years is the cognitive science and pedagogical research that validates best practice and supports reform in geoscience education. The past 15 years have seen a widespread rise at the undergraduate level in interest in effective teaching, along with increased use of active learning strategies, research-based best practices, real-world data, and authentic assessment. Changes in how undergraduate geoscience is taught has been critically catalyzed by development of a community of practice and supported by advances in technology.

Geoscience education at all levels plays an on-going role in the challenge of making sure that it is not just the geoscientists who know that geoscience plays a critical role in decision-making and that our lives and futures depend on an understanding of the planet from a geoscience perspective. What remains a challenge is that we still fail to reach the vast majority of future citizens with geoscience education at the high school and college levels. Effective teaching that reaches more students, reaches them early, and reaches them in ways that are effective in helping them make better personal, professional, and community decisions is crucial. Extending our reach is the challenge of the decades ahead. Meeting this challenge will require new approaches to geoscience education in college and pre-college settings, as well as a new kind of systems thinking: thinking about the educational system as a whole.