We are so pleased that you will be attending the Summit on the Future of Undergraduate Geoscience Education, Friday, Jan. 10th through Sunday, Jan. 12th. Below is a description of the organization, topics and questions to be discussed. Please also review the Schedule/Agenda for the Summit, and look at some of the Background Reading.

At the Summit on the Future of Undergraduate Geoscience Education, we will work towards a community consensus on three main topics and identify the next steps needed to implement our collective recommendations. We have two Keynote speakers that will start the days on Friday and Saturday, and one panel for each of the three topics. After each panel discussion, we will break into pre-defined workgroups of 10-13 people to discuss the questions related to that topic. Each workgroup will decide which of the many questions to address. During these breakout sessions after discussion, the groups will summarize their thoughts on the issues and ideas on next steps on 1-2 PowerPoint slides. Next intermediate level working groups (2-3 combined workgroups of 24-36 people) will meet and work together to consolidate ideas and prepare a single set of 2 PowerPoint slides to be presented (5 minutes) to the entire group for discussion. Reports should include suggested next steps. These PowerPoint slides will be posted online with the option for internal and external people to comment. At the end we will summarize the results of all of our deliberations and discuss next steps.

The Keynote speakers are:

Robert Frodeman

Director of the Center for the Study of Interdisciplinarity and Professor of Philosophy University of North Texas.
Presentation Title: The End of Disciplinarity

Dr. Frodeman isa philosopher with great familiarity with the geoscientists.  He is one of the authors in the new GSA’s Special Paper (for the 125th anniversary) edited by Vic Baker, “Rethinking the Fabric of Geology”.  His paper is entitled “The geosciences, climate change, and the virtues of ignorance”.  He has also published other articles on the geosciences including “Geological reasoning: Geology as an interpretive and historical science”, Geological Society of America Bulletin 107 (8), 960.  He specializes in environmental philosophy, science policy, and questions concerning interdisciplinarity. Holder of advanced degrees in philosophy (a PhD, from Penn State) and geology (a masters from the University of Colorado), he has held positions at the University of Texas, the University of Tennessee, and the University of Colorado. He served as a consultant for the US Geological Survey for eight years and was the 2001-2002 Hennebach Professor of the Humanities at the Colorado School of Mines.

James Collins

Virginia M. Ullman Professor of Natural History and the Environment in the School of Life Science, Arizona State University.
Presentation Title: Undergraduate science education early in the 21st century: No miracles needed, but we do need leaders

Dr. Collins served as Director of the Directorate for Biological Sciences at the National Science Foundation during the development of the Biology Vision and Change Report and has been involved in the implementation of its recommendations. Collins was founding director of ASU’s Undergraduate Biology Enrichment Program funded by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and served as co-director of ASU’s Undergraduate Mentoring in Environmental Biology and Minority Access to Research Careers programs funded by NSF and NIH, respectively. He received his B.S. from Manhattan College in 1969 and his Ph.D. from The University of Michigan in 1975.

The three main topics and the questions to be addressed are:


  • What content, competencies, and skills are needed to prepare undergraduate students for graduate school and/or for future careers in the geosciences?
  • What should the next-generation undergraduate geoscience curricula include? Given the change in scope of the geosciences, how can we balance more traditional geoscience courses and topics (e.g. mineralogy, paleontology, etc.) with newer ones (e.g. climate, hydrogeology, etc.)?
  • What level of math, other basics sciences, and computational competencies for dealing with large datasets, geospatial data, and modeling is needed?
  • How can we integrate field experiences into the curricula at diverse institutions?
  • How do we ensure students develop critical-thinking and problem solving skills and the ability to be life-long learners?
  • How do we successfully teach students to work well in a team environment?  What other skills and types of courses will be critical to students’ success in the workforce of the future?
  • How do we make sure that students graduate with the communication skills and understanding of social science that will make them effective in their chosen careers? How do we infuse curricula with an appreciation for ethics and personal responsibility?
  • What should geoscience departments and faculty do to prepare undergraduates for rapidly advancing technologies that they will need to use in the future? What place does computational modeling and simulation, analysis of large datasets, and new visualization and geospatial tools and programs (e.g. Google Earth, Arc GIS) have in undergraduate education?


  • What should next-generation undergraduate geoscience pedagogies look like? What are the best practices for providing student-centered, interactive instruction?
  • What have we learned from educational and design-based education research (DBER) about student learning?  What are effective ways of using the results of this research in different size classes, educational settings, and diverse institutions?  What further educational research is needed for the geosciences?
  • How do we get geoscience faculty to move from traditional, lecture-style instruction to more effective methods of student learning? What factors keep faculty from adopting new pedagogies and how can these be overcome?
  • How do we get the wider geoscience educational community to assess and adopt evidence-based practices? How do we successfully implement sustainable changes in pedagogy?
  • How have technological advances changed pedagogy for the geosciences? What are the implications of rapidly advancing technology for undergraduate education, both in terms of how and what students are taught? How should geoscience departments and faculty respond positively to the challenges and opportunities inherent in potentially disruptive technologies?
  • How can new modes of teaching, such as hybrid or blended learning (traditional face-to-face classroom instruction combined with online learning), flipped classrooms, MOOCs, and the availability large open-source datasets, crowd-sourced and other distributed open education resources,  be used effectively?
  • How can we develop more shared resources and courses that allow institutions with limited faculty and resources to customize external instruction to meet their needs? How can virtual experiences be used to effectively augment, or in some cases replace, field and other “real” experiences?

Broadening participation and retention and preparing K-12 science teachers of the future

  • What are challenges to developing a robust and diverse future geoscience workforce? What are proven best practices for engaging and retaining traditionally unrepresented and first generation college students in the geosciences?
  • What roles can 2-year colleges, minority serving institutions, employers and professional societies play?  What pathways would improve the transition from 2-year associates degrees in geoscience or science to 4-year bachelor’s degree geoscience programs?
  • How do we ensure that courses are taught in ways that contribute to success for all students, including low-income, first-generation, and underrepresented minorities?
  • What are effective models for attracting and developing middle and high school geoscience teachers? What geoscience content should be included in a curriculum for future geoscience teachers and for all K-12 teachers?
  • How can we effectively integrate the Geoscience Literacy documents into introductory and lower level geoscience courses?  How will the Next Generation Science Standards effect what future geoscience and science teachers should learn and how they teach?
  • How do teacher certification rules impact geoscience teaching at K-12 levels?
  • In introductory and lower level geoscience courses, what are effective ways to demonstrate the use of all sciences and math to solve geoscience problems, thereby providing future science teachers geoscience examples to use in their science and math classes?

We will send you the names of others in your work groups and other information in a couple weeks. We are looking forward to seeing you all in January.