2014 GSA Annual Meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia (19–22 October 2014)

Paper No. 275-12
Presentation Time: 11:10 AM


ATCHISON, Christopher L., School of Education and Department of Geology, University of Cincinnati, 511E Teachers College, P.O. Box 210002, Cincinnati, OH 45221, FEIG, Anthony D., Department of Geography, Central Michigan University, CMU DOW 278, Mt. Pleasant, MI 48859, GILLEY, Brett H., Earth Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences, University of British Columbia, Room 2020, Earth Sciences Building, 2207 Main Mall, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z4, Canada and STOKES, Alison, School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, Plymouth University, Drake Circus, Plymouth, PL4 8AA, United Kingdom, christopher.atchison@uc.edu

Students with disabilities are commonly excluded from full participation in geoscience programs, and encounter significant barriers when accessing field-learning experiences. In order to increase talent and diversity in the geoscience workforce, more inclusive learning experiences must be developed that will enable all students to complete the requirements of undergraduate degree programs, including fieldwork. We discuss the outcomes of a completely accessible field course developed through the collaborative effort of geoscience education faculty from the US, Canada and the UK. This unique field workshop has brought together current geoscience faculty and students with disabilities to share perspectives on commonly-encountered barriers to learning in the field (e.g. attitudes of others, organizational issues and physical factors), and explore methods and techniques for overcoming them. While the student participants had the opportunity to learn about Earth processes while situated in the natural environment, participating geoscience instructors began to identify how to improve the design of field courses, making them fully inclusive of learners with disabilities.

The two main objectives of this project are to 1. conduct a completely accessible field-based workshop where students with disabilities and geoscience faculty work together to define inclusive methods of field-based instruction; and 2. promote the course design, logistical planning, and research-based outcomes as a set of guidelines that will enable the broader geoscience education community to develop and provide accessible field-based learning opportunities for students with disabilities on into the future.

Through the perspectives of both student and instructor stakeholders, we report on our efforts to establish accessibility guidelines for inclusive instructional practices in a field environment. However, the outcomes of this workshop provide more than just a single learning experience; they will potentially become a catalyst to change the way in which current geoscience programs are promoted and offered.