2015 GSA Annual Meeting in Baltimore, Maryland, USA (1-4 November 2015)

Paper No. 13-13
Presentation Time: 11:30 AM


ANDERSON, Peter and SNOW, Jonathan E., Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, University of Houston, Houston, TX 77204, pzanderson@uh.edu

Public science education is a not just a service for the community, it can also act as a tool by which Earth Science graduate students can themselves be trained. The classroom setting is often a relatively low-stress and fun environment for graduate students to develop their communication abilities, but it also requires them to address a much less informed audience by simplifying, synthesizing and generalizing their knowledge in real time. This method can be evaluated through a qualitative study of the participants directly involved in the school presentations. To gain efficacy in teaching to the level of your audience the graduate student participants are required by necessity to develop a speaking style that K-12 students can process and actively engage. The available literature shows that being able to break down an argument to its most fundamental components facilitates a more complete understanding of a topic in the speaker.

The participants in this program learn communicative skills, which we as graduate students typically develop in graduate school, by a trial and error process. Participants in our program, improve both their overall comprehension of the subject and their ability to communicate it. Initial assessments of the merits of participation within this program show a positive correlation between participation and improved instructional ability and comprehension. We are actively evaluating additional qualitative assessments to allow us to test the validity of our initial results.

This program and its philosophy provide justification for the development of new instructional techniques that take advantage of graduate students that enjoy the teaching process. Instructional development initiatives like these need to be seen as more than just civic engagement within college adjacent communities, but as a potential teaching practicum that benefits the graduate students themselves.