Data-rich and societally-oriented curricular modules: comparison of design inputs and actual use pat

Donna Charlevoix
Director, Education & Community Engagement

The Geodesy Tools for Societal Issues (GETSI) project was initiated to address a dearth of resources for undergraduate learning about geodesy – a branch of geoscience that studies the Earth’s size, shape, mass distribution, rotation, and variations of these over time. Geodetic research quantifies changes in the Earth’s surface and subsurface, ice sheets and glaciers, and oceans and atmosphere. Over the course of four TUES/IUSE grants, GETSI has developed thirteen ~2-week modules that allow undergraduate students to engage in geodetic data analysis relevant to societally important topics of natural hazards, water resources, and climate change. Resources support learning in both classroom and field settings and at introductory- and majors-levels. The project has also conducted 45 instructor professional development events from 1-hour webinars to 2.5-day short courses that have reached more than 1350 participants. The primary focus of GETSI is to serve broader impacts by better equipping geoscience students to address societal challenges through STEM data analysis and application.This particular study compares module design with how faculty actually use and value the resulting resources. GETSI curricular module design was grounded in geoscience community input and evidence-based practices for STEM learning. At the outset of the first grant, two charrettes and a community survey indicated that geoscience faculty:•Valued all three topics (natural hazards, climate change, and water resources) with hazards being highest (95%)•Were most interested in lab/activities, data sets, and animations (74-84% “most likely to use”), with presentations and background notes also being priorities. Learning assessments were valued lower (42%).•Advocated strongly for modules to be divided into “units” for flexible adoption.Following principles of backwards design and other evidence-based practices, GETSI also integrated: learning outcomes, robust assessment strategies, active learning strategies, and science grounded in the context of addressing societal challenges — even though faculty did not strongly value these aspects at the outset.To study the actual use patterns of the curricular modules, GETSI conducted “Share Your Experience Surveys” with faculty users (n=80). Eighty-six percent of respondents said they were “very likely” to use the resources again. The quality rating averaged 9 on a scale of 1-10 (10 being highest). The 80 respondents reported on directly reaching 4,969 students, suggesting the actual reach of the GETSI curricular materials is in the tens-of-thousands of students, given that 820 faculty have requested and been given access to private instructor resources (primarily answer keys). In keeping with initial faculty advice to divide modules into units for flexible adoption, almost no users completed an entire module as published. More typically faculty used a subset of the 3-6 units per module and made at least some modifications to what they did use. Faculty perceptions of resource usefulness also matched relative initial interest in different resource types with 96% of activities/labs being “useful” to “very useful”. Animations, instructor notes, and presentations achieving 89-93%; whereas assessments were only deemed 46% useful. Counter to initial predictions, however, instructors used “societally-focused” units at essentially the same rate (57%) as the more “data-focused” units (60%).


Beth Pratt-Sitaula (UNAVCO), Kristin O’Connell (Science Education Resource Center), Becca Walker (Mt San Antonio College), Bruce James Douglas (Indiana University), Benjamin Crosby (Idaho State University)