New paper published in Journal of Geoscience Education

The Geocognition Research Lab is happy to announce a new paper published in the February issue of the Journal of Geoscience Education:

by Steven W. Anderson and Julie C. Libarkin

ABSTRACT: Nationwide pre- and post-testing of introductory courses with the Geoscience Concept Inventory (GCI) shows little gain for many of its questions. Analysis of more than 3,500 tests shows that 22 of the 73 GCI questions had gains of <0.03, and nearly half of these focused on basic physics and chemistry. We also discovered through an assessment of nearly 500 matched pre- and posttests that students were less likely to change answers on basic physics and chemistry questions than they were on those for the geosciences, with many of the low-gain geoscience questions showing switch rates that were similar to that expected for guessing. These results also pertain to the high-scoring pretest students, suggesting that little geoscience conceptual entrenchment occurs for many students enrolled in entry-level courses. Switching rates for physics and chemistry questions were well below the rates associated with geosciences questions, suggesting greater entrenchment. We suggest that students may have difficulty settling on a correct geoscience conception because of the shaky, more entrenched supporting science underpinnings upon which Earth Science ideas are built. These results prompt the following questions: (1) When do our geology majors learn fundamental science concepts if little learning occurs in the introductory courses? (2) What role does the introductory course play in this eventual learning? (3) What strategies can be employed in introductory courses to enhance learning for those students who will only take one college-level geosciences course? We suggest that longitudinal studies of geosciences majors are needed for periods longer than a semester and that more attention be paid to when conceptual change occurs for our majors.

The Power of Stepping Away

I gave myself 10 days (mostly) away from work this summer. I had almost forgotten what it was like to go a day without checking email, fielding phone calls, talking to students, and staring at my computer screen. I have to admit that I really liked it – I  read three novels, played with my son, saw parts of South Dakota I’ve never been to, and gave my brain a rest. I’m both happy and sad to be back at work – I feel reinvigorated and ready to tackle writing projects with end-of-summer deadlines, and I’m excited to start working with two new graduate students. At the same time, I will miss the freedom that comes with just being, instead of always being on. It is powerful to step away – more of my academic colleagues should try it!

Paper in Press, available online: Visual Representations on High School Biology, Chemistry, Earth Science, and Physics Assessments

The GRL is pleased to announce that a new publication “Visual Representations on High School Biology, Chemistry, Earth Science, and Physics Assessments” is in press and available through Springer’s online pre-publication system: Congratulations to the paper’s first author, former graduate student and now Assistant Professor Nicole LaDue.

Where Should A DBER Scholar Publish?

A couple of years ago the question of where discipline-based education research (DBER) should be published came up in conversation, and I did an informal survey of DBER faculty at my institution to determine where they publish and what they read. In essence, which journals are part of their scholarly conversations? I compiled the list of unique journals that my colleagues suggested, and wanted to share it more broadly. I also added in a few additional and reputable publishing opportunities that have arisen in the meantime. Note that this is NOT a comprehensive list of all good journals. Rather, this is a list that originated from a consensus of top journals used by DBER scholars. Email me if you think a top or high quality new journal needs to be added!

*Interestingly, only a subset (65%) of these journals are indexed by Thomson Reuters – anyone else wish they would expand their offerings or abandon the practice of assigning impact altogether? My institution seems like it wants to discount my scholarship because my field has a non-ISI journal as its main journal. Whether indexed by Thomson Reuters or not, always check Beall’s list to make sure your work is published in the highest quality places!


Advances in Physiology Education
Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Education
CBE Life Science Education
Evolution: Education and Outreach
Journal of Microbiology and Biology Education
Journal of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Education (also listed in Earth System Science)

Chemical Education Research and Practice
Chemical Engineering Education (also listed in Engineering)
Journal of Chemical Education

Earth System Science/Environmental Science
Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society
Environmental Education Research
Geosphere (special theme)
International Journal of Environmental and Science Education
Journal of Environmental Education
Journal of Geography in Higher Education
Journal of Geoscience Education
Journal of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Education (also listed in Bioscience)

Advances in Engineering Education
Chemical Engineering Education (also listed in Chemistry)
International Journal of Engineering Education
Journal of Engineering Education

The College Mathematics Journal
Journal for Research in Mathematics Education
Research in Mathematics Education
Notices of the American Mathematical Society

American Journal of Physics
The Physics Teacher
Physical Review Special Topics – Physics Education Research

Active Learning in Higher Education
American Educational Research Journal
Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education
British Journal of Educational Psychology
Cognition and Instruction
Educational Researcher
International Journal of Higher Education
International Journal of Science Education
Journal of Educational Psychology
Journal of Research in Science Teaching
Journal of Science Education and Technology
Journal of Science Teacher Education
Journal of the Learning Sciences
Research in Science Education
Review of Educational Research
Science Education
Teaching and Teacher Education

GEOSPHERE: Special Theme Issue on Human Dimensions in Geoscience

GEOSPHERE is an online journal published by the Geological Society of America (ISI impact = 2.7). The Human Dimensions in Geoscience theme is intended to bring together research that sits at the boundary between geoscience, broadly construed, and social science. This offers an opportunity for communication, education, sociology, anthropology, or similar scholars to interact with each other and reach mainstream scientists. I would personally love to see work from many different communities come together in GEOSPHERE to help build connections across different, yet very similar, research fields.

GEOSPHERE – a journal of the Geological Society of America – periodically runs theme-specific issues. These issues contain collections of articles devoted to the same topic or region and span multiple issues of the journal. Papers are published in regular Geosphere issues as they are accepted, and then each themed issue appears on a separate web page where all themed-issue papers are grouped. Theme issues remain open for two or more years and submissions are accepted on a rolling basis, allowing authors to submit manuscripts as work is completed rather than to meet a specific deadline.

The Call for Papers :

Guest Editors:
Julie Libarkin
Renee Clary
Suzanne O’Connell

This themed issue will focus on the research that occurs at the interface between geoscience, broadly construed, and social science. Political science, education, history, philosophy, communication, information science, diversity studies, and similar fields can help illuminate some of the most vexing issues facing the geosciences. Best practices for communicating climate science, for example, emerge when deep understanding of geoscience intersects graphic design. Similarly, the solutions to the immediate and future need to train more geoscience students may lie in lessons already learned by diversity and access scholars. This special issue will provide a venue for researchers investigating human dimensions in geoscience to share research findings with each other and the broader geoscience community. We encourage submission of high quality research that sits at the interface between geoscience and social science, including science communication, science policy, history and philosophy of science, learning in formal and informal settings, diversity in science, and similar fields.

To submit a paper for this issue, go to and be sure to note in your cover letter that this submission is for the “Human Dimensions in Geoscience” themed issue. This special issue will remain open for two years and submissions will be accepted on a rolling basis.

Science will never “stick” this way

I am happy to see the Chronicle of Higher Education tackle science training for non-scientists. This article references some well known scholars (Miller, Kahan) and even one of my favorite geologists (Ed Nuhfer). These are people who think deeply about scientific literacy, pedagogy, or both. Scientific literacy is important for scientists, for politicians, for everyday decision-making. Personally, I think critical thinking ability is more important than knowing the facts of science, and is a vital skill that is under-taught to everyone, including scientists. See, for example, a critical thinking MOOC I worked on with my colleague Stephen Thomas and many others. So, good for the Chronicle for bringing the importance of scientific literacy to light.

However, the article is rife with misconceptions about effective teaching. Note the first photograph of a lecturer in the front of a classroom – not necessarily the most effective pedagogical approach, although certainly the most common in undergraduate science courses. Note, too, the second photograph of a typical lecture hall – difficult to do much more than lecture in one of these very common spaces. Group work is possible in these lecture halls, but unwieldy and difficult without a “bevy of teaching assistants who roam around ready to clear up misconceptions“. My institution certainly won’t pay for one teaching assistant in my lecture hall, let alone many. Most difficult for me, the article describes a workshop in which faculty and graduate students trade teaching tips. Sadly, the one tip offered “Write exam questions after each class to better align teaching with assessment” flies in the face of what we know about good pedagogical design. Assessments should be tightly aligned with goals for student learning, not with what happens to be taught in the classroom. Figure out what you want students to learn, figure out how you will know if students have learned, and only then should you figure out how you will teach for effective learning. That’s good practice. Just ask Wiggins and McTighe of Backward Design fame. Other instructional design theories exist beyond Backward Design, of course, but none seem evident in this article.

Science instruction at the college level will probably only become effective when: 1) Large research institutions start to value instruction as much as they do research. This seems unlikely given the push for more and more grant-getting on the part of faculty; and/or 2) Students demand courses that are designed for effective learning as documented by educational research – courses that are more interactive, smaller, and/or take advantage of cutting-edge instructional technologies; and/or 3) Faculty demand training in pedagogy as part of their own professional development. Teachers in the elementary and secondary classroom routinely undergo proscribed professional development. Why don’t college faculty get trained to teach as a matter of normal practice?