We have seen that Earth System Science courses embrace and perpetuate many of the innovative teaching and learning strategies propagated by today’s educational thinkers. Much of today’s discourse about education reform and reframing, whether at K-12 or post-secondary, includes references as well as projections of project-based learning, co-teaching, collaboration, inquiry-based methods, application-based learning, technology-based pedagogy, multi-disciplinary curricular approaches, and alternative, portfolio, and formative assessments.
The work—research, theorizing, and design—of these pedagogical components, often associated with progressive educational methods, has been done. The implementation and change of practice for the most part has not. The design of classroom teaching of ESSE courses requires the change of practice from a traditional knowledge delivery model (conventional lecture course) toward different paradigms that support course designs and content. The ESSE course repertoire and more recently the ESSE-21 projects contain exemplars of creative pedagogy driven by the unique content delivery demands.
Innovative student-centered learning approaches are multifaceted and include:
• Austin College (Texas) students learn as they conduct a project to establish a new surface environmental observation station as well as integrate alternative assessment approaches such as portfolios.
To Follow in the Ways of Great Scientists: Inquiry-Based Learning with Portfolios
David Baker, Austin College, Sherman, TX
What if students could explore science outside the classroom and laboratory?
Baker, R.D., 2006, Project-Based Learning, Surface Energy Balance, and Establishment of a New Undergraduate Weather Station, Journal of Geoscience Education, v. 54, p. 320-328
• Lehigh University (Pennsylvania) students take advantage of Web-based inquiry as they study environmental issues in the Lehigh River watershed.
Bodzin, A.M., Anastasio, D., 2006, Using Web-based GIS For Earth and Environmental Systems Education, Journal of Geoscience Education, v. 54, p. 295-300
• California State University Monterey Bay students must take two service learning courses to introduce them to concepts of service learning and multicultural community participation and then to address social issues more specific to their career aspirations.
Head, W.D., et al, 2006, From the Ground Up: Building an Undergraduate Earth Systems Curriculum, Journal of Geoscience Education, v. 54, p. 240-248
• University of Missouri Kansas City students learn how the impact and changes affected by humans upon local environments connect to community-based social issues.
Davies, C.P., 2006, Implementing Earth Systems Science Curriculum: Evaluating the Integration of Urban Environments for an Urban Audience, Journal of Geoscience Education, v. 54, p. 364-373
• University of New Hampshire upper level Earth System Science students experience collaboration and co-teaching; the course is taught by two professors who alternately lead weekly seminars in their respective expertise areas. They realize that one instructor cannot solely manage the knowledge necessary for teaching a multi-disciplinary course.
Hurtt, G.C., et al, 2006, Broadening Student Horizons: The Development, Delivery, and Assessment of a New Course in Earth System Science, Journal of Geoscience Education, v. 54, p. 329-338
• University of Alaska Fairbanks students use geoinformatics technology to understand problems related to the impacts and forcings of different spheres upon others. Students become fluent not only learning how the tools work, but how to think and learn with the tools.
Prakash, A., 2006, Introducing Geoinformatics for Earth System Science Education, Journal of Geoscience Education, v. 54, p. 555-560
• Loma Linda University students approach ESS through problem-based learning with the course, Major Global and Societal Issues of Poverty, Health, Disease, Environmental Degradation, and Social Inequality
ESSE21 and Geobrain Projects: LLU's Problem Based Learning Experience in Honduras
Robert E. Ford, Loma Linda University, Loma Linda, CA
We emphasize providing opportunities for joint student/faculty and local-level partner collaboration on real-world science, policy, and place-based problems related to human impacts on natural systems
Finding ways to bring together multiple disciplines to support interdisciplinary studies is an ongoing challenge in Earth system science education.
Finding resources to support efforts to help underrepresented minorities be successful in Earth system science is a major concern.