Observations of Undergraduate Geoscience Instruction in the US: Measuring Student Centered Teaching

Thursday, 18 December 2014: 11:35 AM
Rachel Teasdale, California State University Chico, Chico, CA, United States, Cathryn A Manduca, Science Education Resource Center at Carleton College, Northfield, MN, United States, David A Mcconnell, North Carolina State University at Raleigh, Raleigh, NC, United States, Julie K Bartley, Gustavus Adolphus College, St. Peter, MN, United States, Monica Z Bruckner, Carleton College, Northfield, MN, United States, Dori Farthing, SUNY at Geneseo, Geological Sciences, Geneseo, NY, United States, Ellen A R Iverson, Carleton College, SERC, Northfield, MN, United States and Karen M Viskupic, Boise State University, Boise, ID, United States
The Reformed Teaching Observation Protocol (RTOP; Swada, et al., 2002) has been used by a trained team of On the Cutting Edge (CE) observers to characterize the degree of student-centered teaching in US college and university geoscience classrooms. Total RTOP scores are derived from scores on 25 rubric items used to characterize teaching practices in categories of lesson design, content delivery, student-instructor and student-student interactions. More than 200 classroom observations have been completed by the RTOP team in undergraduate courses at a variety of US institution types (e.g., community colleges, research universities). A balanced mix of early career, mid-career, and veteran faculty are included, and the study examines class sizes ranging from small (<30) to large (>80 students). Observations are limited to one class session and do not include laboratories or field activities. Data include RTOP scores determined by a trained observer during the classroom observation and an online survey in which the observed instructors report on their teaching practices. RTOP scores indicate that the observed geoscience classes feature varying degrees of student-centered teaching, with 30% of observed classes categorized as teacher-centered (RTOP scores ≤30), 45% of observed classes categorized as transitional classrooms (RTOP scores 31-49) and 25% are student-centered (RTOP scores ≥ 50). Instructor self-report survey data and RTOP scores indicate that geoscience faculty who have participated in one or more CE professional development event and use the CE website have an average RTOP score of 49, which is significantly higher (> 15 points) than the average score of faculty who have not participated in CE events and have not used the website. Approximately 60% of student-centered classes (those with high RTOP scores) use some traditional lecture nearly every day, but are also are likely to include an in-class activity or group discussion (e.g. Think-Pair-Share). More than 50% of instructors in student-centered classes report spending 30% or less of their class time on such activities (e.g. 15 minutes of a 50 minute class period), indicating that a relatively small investment can yield important impacts in engaging undergraduate geoscience students.