Alphabetical List of Graduate Programs in Geocognition and Geoscience Education Research: Includes United States, New Zealand, and Canada

Updated: 9/2021


Limited to Programs Housed in Colleges of Science

Arizona State University: MS/PhD, Steve Semken, Steve Reynolds
Graduate students in Geoscience Education at ASU benefit from a long-standing and productive collaboration among research faculty and students in its internationally respected: School of Earth and Space Exploration, Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, and Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability. The geologically, culturally, and historically rich Southwest offers a superb setting for studies of formal and informal teaching and learning, and ASU graduates the most STEM teachers of any university in the region. Current active research areas include place-based and cross-cultural geoscience teaching and learning; spatial visualization, figures, and animations in geoscience learning; geoscience teaching and learning in virtual environments; cultural validation of assessments; interpretation and informal learning in National Parks; concept sketches for learning and assessment; Native American ethnogeology; and strategic preparation of Earth-science teachers.

Auburn University: MS/PhD, Karen McNeal
Geoscience education research in the Department of Geosciences is part of Auburn University’s discipline-based education research initiative housed in the College of Science and Mathematics. The Department of Geosciences currently offers an MS in Geosciences and in Fall 2018 the Department will launch the Interdisciplinary Earth System Science PhD degree, offering geoscience education specialists an array of opportunities for completing their coursework and research leveraging access to multiple colleges on campus. The geoscience education and geocognition research group at Auburn focuses on a variety of topics including, but not limited to, learning in introductory courses and the use of active learning approaches, the testing of technologies in the classroom (e.g., augmented and virtual reality), people’s knowledge and perceptions of global change, psychomotor (e.g., eye-tracking and skin biosensors) responses to an intervention or stimuli, and the understanding of student conceptual models and skills, such as spatial thinking and graph reading, as they apply to the geosciences.

Clemson University: PhD, Kelly Best Lazar
Students interested in geoscience education (or science education more broadly) can benefit from joining Clemson’s DBER department, Engineering and Science Education (ESED). This PhD-only department is unique in that it brings together math, science, and engineering education researchers as part of the College of Engineering, Computing, and Applied Sciences. Kelly Lazar’s group focuses on encouraging engagement and interest in geoscience, especially through the use of traditional and virtual reality field trips. Her joint appointment in the Department of Environmental Engineering and Earth Sciences result in a strong connection to Clemson’s geology program. Students interested in collaborating within a supportive community of DBER faculty and students should reach out to Kelly Lazar.

Florida International University: MS/PhD, Kathy Quardokus Fisher
The Department of Earth and Environment at Florida International University offers a PhD in Earth Systems Science and MS in Geosciences with the possibility of research topics in the area of Geosciences Education. Kathy Quardokus Fisher’s research focuses on the teaching and learning of the geosciences (primarily Atmospheric Science) at the postsecondary level and the design and implementation of educational change initiatives. Graduate students in this area are also invited to join the community of DBER graduate students from 6 STEM departments as part of the STEM Transformation Institute at FIU.

Michigan State University: MS/PhD, Julie Libarkin
Graduate students in the Geocognition Research Lab can earn an MS or PhD in Earth and Environmental Sciences through cutting-edge research that blurs the boundaries between learning science, education, geoscience, and diversity. This work includes investigation of expert-novice cognition (e.g., Field Work), assessment of learning (e.g., Item Response Theory), scientific communication (e.g., Climate Literacy), and access and inclusion (e.g., Social Capital and Mentoring). Potential coursework in geoscience, education, psychology, political science, sociology, and other areas offers opportunities to build multidisciplinary expertise through programs such as the Cognitive Science Program, the Environmental Science & Policy Program, and the Center for Community Engaged Learning. Contact Julie Libarkin ( for more information.

Mississippi State University: MS/PhD, Renee Clary, Athena Owen Nagel, Kathy Sherman-Morris
The Department of Geosciences at Mississippi State University offers both a MS in Geosciences and a PhD in Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, with one possible concentration in Geoscience Education. The department is very broad, offering multiple research opportunities in the geoscience subdisciplines of Geology, Atmospheric Sciences, GIS, and Geospatial Science. Geoscience education research focuses on geoscience learning in traditional, online, and informal educational environments. Three faculty members specialize in Geoscience education research: Renee Clary, Athena Owen Nagel, and Kathy Sherman-Morris. Active geoscience education research within the department includes programs investigating effective teaching strategies, history and philosophy of science in geoscience teaching, geocognition and understanding of complex earth systems, and geoscience visualization strategies. Applications for MS, PhD, and postdoctoral levels in geoscience education are welcomed.

North Carolina State University: MS/PhD, David McConnell
Geoscience education research in the Department of Marine, Earth, and Atmospheric Sciences (MEAS) is part of the North Carolina State University (NCSU) discipline-based teaching and learning initiative. MEAS offers both MS and PhD degrees with a focus on geoscience education research on a variety of topics including, but not limited to, the use of research-validated teaching strategies in introductory lecture and lab courses, the development of student learning processes, the relationship between teaching beliefs and practices, and professional development for graduate students and faculty.

Northern Colorado University: MA, Steven Anderson, Joe Elkins
The Earth Sciences department at Northern Colorado University offer both a B.S. and M.A. degree in Earth Sciences. Students have the option of studying in one of four emphasis areas: Environmental Science, Geology, Meteorology, and Secondary Education.

Northern Illinois University: MS/PhD, Nicole LaDue
The Department of Geology and Environmental Geosciences at NIU offers opportunities to pursue MS and PhDs in geological sciences focusing on geoscience education or combining geologic research and geoscience education research. Current projects being explored in the Visualization and Geoscience Education Research (VGER) Lab focus on spatial thinking (NSF – 1640800 abstract), student comprehension of geoscience visuals (NSF-1835950 abstract), and the role of social support in STEM persistence (NSF-1834076 abstract). This work employs a mixed-methods approach (interviews, eye-tracking, and cognitive testing) to triangulate how students learn and persist in STEM. Graduate students receive methods trainingfrom the College of Education and Psychology Department at NIU to enhance their GER. Contact Nicole LaDue ( for more information.

Texas A&M University
The College of Geosciences at Texas A&M University is a very large program offering a multitude of different degrees in the Geoscience field.

University of British Columbia:, MS/PhD, Laura Lukes
This brand new program started in Fall 2021! Contact Dr. Lukes for more information.

University of Canterbury, New Zealand: MS/PhD, Ben Kennedy and Sara Tolbert
In the School of The Earth and the Environment, we offer thesis topics for Undergraduates, Geology MSc, and Geology PhDs as well as equivalents through the College of Education in Geoscience Education. We are focused on two main science education objectives: a) investigating better ways to teach, learn and communicate information about planet Earth and the environment and b) to develop new and innovative classroom activities/resources to enhance the teaching of science (years 5-13) in New Zealand schools.  As a result of (a), the department will have dynamic learning environment, from which students graduate with a full set of desirable skills and a full awareness of the information age in which we live. We also offer students the opportunity to actively research and test new methods for learning and communicating through collaborations with the University of Canterbury’s Academic Development Group, the Human Interface Technology Lab, the College of Education and local Secondary Schools in Canterbury.  We have a focus on volcanology and hazard education  particularly targeting fieldwork, virtual fieldwork and labs, and realistic simulations. Our schools programme not only provides background support to High School teachers (via UC’s Science Outreach Programme especially) but at the same time is involved with research around the design and delivery of curriculum-based initiatives that both empower teachers of science and engage their pupils. Our group continues to develop a series of 3D presentations and group-participation activities that explore aspects of science and the art-science interface. Our group has grown a lot in the last few years and we have extended well beyond the borders of our original Geology education research, here is a link to our latest research group LEAF We now have incorporated a more holistic approach to Earth education research drawing heavily on New Zealand’s Maori indigenous knowledge.

University of Colorado at Boulder: MS/PhD, Leilani Arthurs
At the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, students can pursue a Master’s degree and a PhD degree in Geological Sciences with a specialization in Geoscience Education. To learn more about these options, details are at Dr. Arthurs directs the Geocognition Research for Advancing Science Communication and Education (GRASCE) Lab. Members of the lab conduct research in the area of geoscience education and geocognition. This research is driven by the goals of: (i) furthering our understanding of how people learn most effectively in the geosciences; (ii) identifying conceptual challenges to learning Earth processes; (iii) increasing novice proficiency with scientific, analytical, and critical thinking skills; (iv) applying basic science education research to the design of instructional geoscience materials and pedagogical strategies; and (v) assessing the implementation of learner-centered instructional practices that facilitate deep learning. To learn more about GRASCE Lab, go to:

University of South Carolina: MS/PhD, Katherine Ryker
In The School of the Earth, Ocean and Environment at the University of South Carolina offers MS and PhD degrees in Geological or Marine Sciences specializing in geoscience education. Current efforts of the GER lab at USC center on exploring connections between classroom practices, student learning, teaching beliefs and the implementation of inquiry-based activities in introductory geoscience lectures and labs. Additional topics include incorporating innovative and effective classroom technology, pre-service teacher identity development, and student learning strategies and engagement in introductory courses. Several funded graduate positions are available starting in Fall 2018. Contact Katherine Ryker ( for more information.

University of South Florida: MS/PhD, Jeff Ryan, H.L. (Len) Vacher

Western Michigan University: MA/PhD, Todd Ellis and Heather Petcovic
Graduate students in atmospheric science or geoscience education at WMU can earn a degree through The Mallinson Institute for Science Education (MISE) in collaboration with the Department of Geological and Environmental Sciences or the Department of Geography. The entirely online MA program is designed for inservice teachers. The doctoral program has several tracks focusing on (1) college science teaching, (2) discipline-based education research and teaching, and (3) K-12 curriculum and instruction. We also offer a unique concurrent enrollment program, in which students earn a Masters in a science discipline concurrently with a PhD in Science Education. MISE is a nationally top-ranked program with 11 faculty and 25-35 full-time doctoral students. Research in geoscience education (Petcovic) focuses on geocognition; specifically, toward understanding the knowledge and skills that geoscientists use when working on complex, spatially demanding, field-based problems. Research in atmospheric science education (Ellis) focuses on curriculum development and assessment in formal and informal settings. We are also interested in the preparation of K-12 science teacher candidates with an emphasis on elementary and middle school earth system science, and professional development of science teachers.

Western Washington University: MS, Robyn Mieko Dahl, Sue DiBari, Scott Linneman
Geoscience Education Research at WWU has a long history in teacher-scientist partnerships, field-based learning, student-centered active learning pedagogy, and the role of technology in geoscience instruction. The program benefits from collaboration with other discipline-based education researchers in the Science, Mathematics and Technology (SMATE) Education group ( The Geology MS program requires geoscience graduate coursework and science education research methodology and theory in collaboration with WWU’s Woodring College of Education ( The Geology Department also offers BAE degrees in Earth Science and Earth Science/General Science.

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