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

Paper No. 276-12
Presentation Time: 10:30 AM


ROBERTS, Jennifer A., Dept of Geology, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS 66045, BITTING, Kelsey S., Dept of Geology, University of Kansas, 1475 Jayhawk Blvd, Lindley Hall, Lawrence, KS 66044 and OLCOTT MARSHALL, Alison, Department of Geology, University of Kansas, Lindley Hall Rm 120, Lawrence, KS 66045

While the creation of appropriate teaching and learning materials is critical to transforming traditional courses into active-learning classrooms , recent work supports the assertion that transformation of instructors themselves is equally critical in successful outcomes. Therefore, opportunities for faculty development that enhance an instructor’s ability to effectively move from instructor-centered transmissionist philosophy to a student-centered classroom and constructivist approach are critical to increasing student learning gains. We present experiences from course redesign efforts of large introductory geoscience courses (>80 students). Three different approaches to instructor enhancement were applied with varying success: (i) co-teaching by two instructors with “coaching” from a geoscience teaching specialist, (ii) co-teaching of one instructor and one teaching specialist without a planning period, and (iii) “coaching” from a teaching specialist with a substantial planning period. A particularly useful tool in motivating transformation is instructor evaluation using the Reformed Teaching Observation Protocol (RTOP). We found via RTOP that coaching in the absence of a planning period showed minimal gains in instructor transformation, while co-teaching with a teaching specialist was far more successful. The most successful scenario in our experience (and via RTOP) was a significant planning period that included guidance from a teaching specialist but also opportunities for the specialist to demonstrate student-centered teaching interventions. We identify instructor transformation (and eventual mastery) benefits from expert-guided inquiry and investigation (during the planning phase), modeling of expert behavior (classroom observation), and clear metrics for achievement (RTOP or similar evaluation). Implementing these practices requires substantial instructor and teaching assistant buy-in and institutional support. Our experiences indicate that with these factors for success in place, individual instructor transformation may be achieved within one academic year.