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In spring 2022, the iEarth PhD students and post-doc compiled this list of papers they knew and thought would be interesting and relevant to those interested in teaching and learning in geosciences. The list is built from the papers known or used in relation to research projects, and covers both general and specific topics ranging from practice to education research.

The papers are organised into three topics:

  • General Teaching and Learning,
  • Teaching Earth Sciences, and
  • Field Learning.

With the following structure:



Journal Information [Journal, volume (issue) pages (year)]


Short  description:

General Teaching and Learning

Student-Centered Learning in Higher Education

G. B.  Wright

International  Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 23(3), 92–97, (2011).

This article is summary of a book by Weimer called Learner-Centered Teaching. The  author describes and elaborates on the five main points of the book,  including the balance of power, the function of the course content, the role  of the teacher versus the role of the student, the responsibility of  learning, and the purpose and process of assessment. It is a compact overview  of the book and an invitation for those who are further interested into the  topic to explore the book itself.

What the Student Does: teaching for enhanced learning

J. Biggs

Higher Education Research & Development, 18(1), 57–75, (1999).

What the Student Does: teaching for enhanced learning: Higher Education Research & Development: Vol 18, No 1 (

This article explores the current teaching and learning practices in today's large and diverse classes. It elaborates on importance of using higher order learning processes that can be achieved once all components of teaching and learning are aligned, including teaching methods, learning outcomes, and forms of assessment. This article draws on the author's previously published book Teaching for Quality Learning at University.

The Many Faces of Constructivism

D.  Perkins

Educational  Leadership, (1999), 6-11, 57(3)

A  short, relatively informal article on the learning theory underlying most  active learning paradigms. While in the secondary school context, a lot of  the ideas are relevant to university education. The article also discusses  some ways in which knowledge may be problematic or troublesome.

Does active learning work? A review of the research

M.  Prince

Journal of Engineering Education, 93(3), 223–231, (2004)

This  well-cited article reviews various elements of active learning and points out  common problems interpreting the literature on active learning. It provides  evidence for all forms of active learning examined, challenges the  traditional assumptions about education, but also communicates caution that  active learning is not the cure for all educational problems.

Measuring actual learning versus feeling of learning in response to being actively  engaged in the classroom

L. Deslauriers, L. S. McCarty, K. Miller, K. Callaghan, and G. Kestin

PNAS,  11(39), 19251-19257 (2019)

Two  topics of an introductory physics course were used to perform a randomised  control trial exploration of the effect of student effort required on class  on their learning (exam performance) and the evaluation of the class. While  interacting with the topic during scheduled class time resulted in improved  performance on related exam questions, students reported feeling that they  learnt more, and that the lecturer was more knowledgeable, when they were  passive listeners in the sessions.

Active learning narrows achievement gaps for underrepresented students in  undergraduate science, technology, engineering, and math

E. J.  Theobald et al

Proceedings  of the National Academy of Sciences, (2020), 6476-6483, 117(12)

In courses with large amounts of high-quality active-learning activities, the  achievement gap between underrepresented and low-income students and their  more priviledged peers, as measured by failure rates and exam scores, was  significantly reduced.

Open-ended versus guided laboratory activities: Impact on students' beliefs about  experimental physics

B. Wilcox, H. Lewadowski

Physical  Review Physics Education Research, 12 (2), 020132 (2016)

Phys. Rev. Phys. Educ. Res. 12, 020132 (2016) - Open-ended versus guided laboratory activities:Impact on students' beliefs about experimental physics (

Introductory practical work is often very highly instructed, and provides little room for students to be inquisitive. This paper quantifies changes in student attitudes about practical work in physics, revealing that students become less expert in their beliefs about practical work when tasks are  highly-instructed.

Effects of Inquiry-based Learning on Students’ Science Literacy Skills and Confidence

C.  Gormally, P. Brickman, B. Hallar, and N. Armstrong

International  Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, (2009), 3(2)

Inquiry-based learning exposes students to the complexity, uncertainty and challenges of  genuine scientific practice. This paper reports increased scientific literacy and research skills from inquiry laboratory work, while gains in students'  self-confidence in their scientific abilities are smaller than from a traditional curriculum.

Teaching Earth Sciences

Developing a Learning Progression for Scientific Modeling: Making Scientific Modeling  Accessible and Meaningful for Learners

C. V.  Schwarz, B. J. Reiser, E. A. Davis, L. Kenyon, A. Achér, D. Fortus, Y.  Shwartz, B. Hug, and J. Krajcik.

Journal  of Research in Science Teaching, 46(6), 632–654, (2009)

This  article describes modeling as a core practice in science and a central part  of scientific literacy. The authors present learning progression for  scientific modeling that combines metaknowledge and elements of practice in  such a way that the practice is accessible and meaningful for learners.  Despite this article not being aimed at higher education, there are several  implications that can be adopted to higher education context.

Student Learning of Complex Earth Systems: A Model to Guide Development of Student  Expertise in Problem-Solving

L.  Holder, H. Scherer and B. Herbert

Journal  of Geoscience Education, 65(4), 490–505, (2017)

This  article describes the importance of developing Earth Science students'  conceptualization of the Earth as a system and encouraging them to apply  scientific knowledge and practices to solve problems similarly as it is  expected from scientists. They propose a model that engages students with  authentic, ill-structured problems centered on environmental issues and  complex Earth systems.

Student understanding of complex earth systems

B.  Herbert

Special  Paper of the Geological Society of America, (2006), 95-104, 413(413)

This  book chapter elaborates on cognitive issues students may experience when  attempting to understand the nature of complex Earth systems and suggests  that such conceptual change could be supported through model-based learning  and authentic inquiry. Apart from outlining major learning challenges and  potentially effective instructional strategies, the chapter concludes with  possible implications a reform of science education might carry.

Revisions of Physical Geology Laboratory Courses to Increase the Level of Inquiry:  Implications for Teaching and Learning

A. N.  Grissom, C. D. Czajka, D. A. McConnell

Journal  of Geoscience Education, 63 (4), 285-296 (2015)

Initially highly structured/instructed laboratory-based activities in geology were  modified to increase student independence, exploration and prediction.  Improved academic performance was seen on related exam questions. Many of the  ideas could be used in a classroom as well as 'lab' setting.

The significance of geologic time: Cultural, educational, and economic frameworks

C.  Cervato and R. Frodeman

Earth  and Mind II: A Synthesis of Research on Thinking and Learning in the  Geosciences, (2012), 0, 486

This essay summarizes the literature describing the difficulties, impediments, and  misconceptions students encounter in understanding deep time, including poor  understanding of the actual scale of time between events. It also provides an  overview of the historical development and cultural relevance of deep time,  and suggests ways to increase students’ comprehension, motivation, and  understanding of the significance of geologic time.

Geologic gestures: A new classification for embodied cognition in geology

A.  Boening and E. Riggs

Journal  of Geoscience Education, (2020), 49-64, 68(1)

Geologic gestures: A new classification for embodied cognition in geology: Journal of Geoscience Education: Vol 68, No 1 (

Gestures are often used automatically to aid explanations as they can support or  facilitate explanations by providing a physical representation of thinking  (embodied cognition). Gestures and their meanings are context dependent, but  within a context, many gestures are commonly understood. This paper  investigates the use and meaning of gestures used by geosciences students,  finding that most are one of 5 types (determined by hand-shape) and serve one of 11 functions.

The roles of working memory and cognitive load in geoscience learning

A.  Jaeger, T. Shipley and S. Reynolds

Journal  of Geoscience Education, (2017), 506-518, 65(4)

This  article introduces and reviews working memory and cognitive load theory in  relation to learning in sciences, and specifically geosciences. These two  concepts have implications for instructional design that will enable students  to learn material successfully, Examples highlighted include the importance  of structuring the introduction of new material, providing opportunities to  reflect on the new material and removing irrelevant or tangential  information.

Field Learning

Learning in the field: Synthesis of research on thinking and learning in the  geosciences

D. W.  Mogk and C. Goodwin

Special  Paper of the Geological Society of America, (2012), 131-163, 486

This article presents that learning in the field results in cognitive and  metacognitive gains for students. It also produces affective responses and  affords types of learning that cannot be easily achieved in other controlled  environments, and ultimately provides a solid foundation for the development  of geoscience expertise.

Field-Based  Education: Some Theoretical Considerations

N.  Lonergan and L. Andresen

Higher  Education Research & Development, (1988), 63-77, 7(1)

Field‐Based Education: Some Theoretical Considerations: Higher Education Research & Development: Vol 7, No 1 (

This  paper brings a wide range of general observations and recommendations about  the design and conduct of teaching in the field.

Fieldwork  in geography teaching: A critical review of the literature and approaches

M.  Kent, D. D. Gilbertson and C. O. Hunt

Journal  of Geography in Higher Education, (1997), 313-332, 21(3)

Fieldwork in geography teaching: A critical review of the literature and approaches: Journal of Geography in Higher Education: Vol 21, No 3 (

This paper presents a literature review on the field learning approaches and  changes that happened in late 90's in geography courses. They identify the preparation of project-oriented fieldworks and the need of briefing and debriefing students around field trips.

The  value of being there: toward a science of immersive virtual field trips

A.  Kippel, J. Zhao, D. Oprean, J. O. Wallgrün, P. La Femina and K. L. Jackson

Virtual  Reality, (2020), 753-770, 24(4)

Virtual reality has a number of potential uses in a discipline that relies heavily on  often time-pressured visits to specific places and requires much spatial  visualisation. This case study reveals how a preparatory virtual field visit  had a positive impact on students' learning of spatial modelling and  experience of learning in a field visit. The use of virtual reality to  augment field trips holds much potential to enhance learning.

Place-Based  Education in Geoscience: Theory, Research, Practice, and Assessment

S.  Semken, E. G. Ward, S. Moosavi and P. W. U. Chinn

Journal  of Geoscience Education, (2017), 542-562, 65(4)

This paper presents and overview of theory and research methods that have informed  teaching, assessment, and implementation of place-based education (PBE) in  geoscience. It starts by providin the theoretical framework for PBE,  describes curriculum, instruction, and assessment of PBE, provides several  examples of PBE in geoscience and concludes by offering several  recommendations for future directions for PBE in geoscience

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Rarity et al. (2014)

July 26, 2022
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January 23, 2024