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

Paper No. 304-7
Presentation Time: 10:30 AM


RYKER, Katherine1, IVERSON, Ellen2, BRUCKNER, Monica Z.2, MCCONNELL, David3, MANDUCA, Cathryn2 and LARSEN, Krista4, (1)School of the Earth, Ocean and Environment, University of South Carolina, 701 Sumter Street, EWS 617, Columbia, SC 29208, (2)Science Education Resource Center, Carleton College, 1 North College Street, Northfield, MN 55057, (3)Marine, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27695, (4)Science Education Resource Center, Carleton College, Northfield, MN 55057

There is a growing body of literature to support the use of student-centered teaching in college classrooms, especially in STEM fields. However, many geoscience classrooms remain characterized by traditional, teacher-centered pedagogies. There are many reasons why faculty may not change their practices. One fundamental construct controlling changes in practices is teaching beliefs. Teaching beliefs are strong predictors of actions in the classroom, and influence how faculty respond to professional development. Additionally, faculty perceptions of the supports and barriers at their institutions can impact how new pedagogical information is filtered into the classroom. This study aims to describe how geoscience faculty perceive their professional environment, including what they identify as barriers to change and how they overcome those barriers.

We conducted and analyzed 34 interviews with geoscience faculty whose classrooms were observed using the Reformed Teaching Observation Protocol (RTOP) as part of Cutting Edge’s Classroom Observation Project. Faculty were selected to represent a range of RTOP scores and institution types. Two semi-structured protocols were used to explore different themes related to the professional environment. The Teacher Beliefs Interview (TBI) was used to capture the epistemological beliefs of teachers, including how faculty view their role in the classroom, how they believe students best learn science, and ways they maximize that student learning. A separate interview protocol was developed to identify what changes instructors make to their teaching, what barriers and motivations influence those changes, and the potential influence that departmental, institutional, and disciplinary activities play in these changes. We compare what faculty describe in interviews with what was observed in the classroom.

Even geoscience faculty who recognize the value of student-centered methods in helping students learn science struggle to incorporate those methods in their classrooms. Lessons learned from this study about teaching beliefs, barriers, and the role of professional environments can be applied by individuals trying to foster student-centered teaching environments in their departments, as well as those leading professional development efforts.