GSA Annual Meeting in Denver, Colorado, USA - 2016

Paper No. 207-7
Presentation Time: 3:00 PM


DOHANEY, Jacqueline, Science in Society, Victoria University of Wellington, PO Box 600, Kelburn Parade, Wellington, 6140, New Zealand, WILSON, Thomas M., Geological Sciences, University of Canterbury, Private Bag 4800, Christchurch, 8140, New Zealand, KENNEDY, Ben, Geological Sciences, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, 8140, New Zealand and BROGT, Erik, Academic Services Group, University of Canterbury, Private Bag 4800, Ilam, Christchurch, 8140, New Zealand,

Geoscientists often receive little to no training in science communication and they do not have time to be up to date with existing communication research. Over the past couple of years, we have developed innovative curricula to teach risk and crisis communication to upper year geoscience students at the University of Canterbury and affiliated institutions in New Zealand. This research involved measuring students’ communication performances and building a new model for understanding how communication is learned, resulting in statistically significant improvements of students’ perceptions and confidence. We are now implementing a knowledge transfer initiative, funded by the New Zealand Earthquake Commission, in which our research group will work with practitioners to create joint recommendations for improving risk and crisis communication.

We have distilled our research and experiences teaching communication into six ‘lessons’:

Lesson 1. Understanding and teaching communication requires a holistic approach which incorporates advice from the scholarly literature from many disciplines.

Lesson 2. Education research is vital for teaching communication effectively. Using sound pedagogy to build and evaluate curricula.

Lesson 3. Communication is cultured and highly contextualised. Learning about communication should incorporate social, political, economic, and cultural elements.

Lesson 4. Communication is multi-faceted (i.e., occurs in multiple formats and styles) and should be carefully considered to match the appropriate situation and information needs of the audience.

Lesson 5. Role-play is effective at improving students’ confidence and perceptions of communication in complex scenarios and to different stakeholders.

Lesson 6. Meaningful feedback is key to improving communication. It allows students to try out new strategies and receive specific feedback in a safe learning environment.

We will discuss the origins of these lessons, and why they are important for teaching scientists how to communicate. Additionally, we will highlight the successes and failures of running our knowledge transfer initiative, which is useful for geosciences public engagement professionals and organisations hoping to improve communication skills in the geosciences.

  • Dohaney et al, Lessons in Communication, GSA 2016 presentation.pptx (18.0 MB)