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

Paper No. 244-1
Presentation Time: 1:05 PM


ORR, Cailin Huyck1, IVERSON, Ellen1, MCCONNELL, David2 and MANDUCA, Cathryn1, (1)Science Education Resource Center, Carleton College, 1 North College Street, Northfield, MN 55057, (2)Marine, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27695, corr@carleton.edu

Undergraduate geoscience enrollment at 4-year universities was 27,590 in 2013. This represents an enormous opportunity to influence the future workforce and science literacy nationwide. However, approximately ½ of first year students entering STEM programs switch majors before graduation. The use of engaged pedagogies in classrooms leads to increased retention. This is particularly important at universities, where a large proportion of potential geoscience students are enrolled. However, for faculty members at large universities there are unique intellectual barriers to developing a student-centered classroom and functional barriers to implementing changes.

Data from a national survey conducted by the On the Cutting Edge (CE) professional development program show that, compared to baccalaureate-granting institutions, research universities have significantly higher percent of faculty primarily focused on research (56% vs 17%) and a significantly lower percent who engage in science education research (13% vs 28%). Additionally, a nationwide survey of more than 3,000 geoscience faculty which found that, at doctoral-granting institutions, 15% of the surveyed introductory courses and 8% of upper division undergraduate courses were taught by instructors in non-tenure positions. In this same survey, 13% of respondents from doctoral-granting universities reported using engaged teaching strategies. A CE classroom observation study using the Reformed Teaching Observation Protocol instrument found that instructors and adjunct faculty may be less likely to include active teaching in their classrooms and that, active teaching is used less at research universities than other types of institutions.

Improving student success and transition to the workforce is an important priority at most universities. Work on this priority is especially challenging because of the variety of university faculty appointment types, research and service demands, and by high student to faculty ratios. Done well, professional development improves both classroom engagement and student learning outcomes. But these events need to be to be tailored to the university experience. Large enrollments create challenges for delivering pedagogy, but they also create an opportunity to influence a large proportion of the population.