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Geoscience Education Research: Trends and Applications in Undergraduate Courses

Diane E Lally, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Water resources are progressively under pressure from anthropogenic uses. Students need to learn about water systems as they are the future decision-makers and problem solvers who will be faced with unknown challenges in the future. The overarching goals of this dissertation were: 1) to identify ways in which geoscience instructors are incorporating systems thinking and science modeling in their teaching along with the accompanying methods for improving systems thinking and modeling implementation and 2) explore how the implementation of science modeling and systems thinking increase student evaluation of models and the understanding of hydrologic content. Data for these studies came from the Geoscience Educators Research (GER) 2016 survey data, student assignments and interviews surrounding the Water Balance Model, and student responses from a sociohydrologic systems thinking assignment. First, GER survey data was analyzed with significant variation observed in reported frequency of science modeling and systems thinking (SMST) practices with the highest levels of SMST reported in the atmospheric and environmental sciences, those who emphasize research-based, student centered pedagogical methods, those who recently made course revisions, and those who reported high levels of participation in educational professional development. Therefore, to test if this was replicable in subsequent work, we examined a course at UNL, SCIL 109: Water in Society, a novel course. Courses in SCIL (Science Literacy) are housed in the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, are interdisciplinary, and include both human and scientific dimensions. A case study emerged from this data presenting the use of a computer-based water model over three iterations of SCIL 109. Results indicate that students regardless of year in college, gender, or major can effectively reason about the Water Balance Model. Specific investigation into student performance and reasoning surrounding the Water Balance Model indicate that model evaluation and understanding of core hydrologic content increased from 2017 to 2018 in part due to a flipped classroom format. Finally, the systems thinking assignment from SCIL 109 was studied using mixed-methods to investigate student operationalization of a sociohydrologic system. Results show that students scored highest on problem identification from their written work and mechanism inclusion form their drawn models. Each of these studies contributes to the overall body of knowledge surrounding undergraduate geoscience education.

Subject Area

Science education

Recommended Citation

Lally, Diane E, "Geoscience Education Research: Trends and Applications in Undergraduate Courses" (2020). ETD collection for University of Nebraska-Lincoln. AAI27834714.