A Multidimensional Assessment of Reformed Teaching Practice in Geoscience Classrooms

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This study analyzed quantitative and qualitative data from classroom observations combined with instructor survey results to characterize the application of reformed teaching practices in undergraduate geoscience classes in the United States. Trained observers used the Reformed Teaching Observation Protocol (RTOP) to score 204 geoscience classes. Observed faculty represent a diversity of institutions, teaching rank, and years of experience. Classrooms observed included introductory and upper-level undergraduate courses that ranged in size from 6 to 275 students. Total RTOP scores do not correlate with class size, class level, institution type, instructor gender, instructor rank, or years of teaching experience. Classroom instruction was separated into three categories based on total RTOP scores: Teacher Centered (≤30), Transitional (31–49), or Student Centered (≥50). Statistical analyses of RTOP subscales and individual item scores are used to identify the instructional practices that are characteristic of each category. Instructor survey responses and qualitative classroom observations provide additional details about instructional practices common within each instructional category. Results of these analyses provide a coherent picture of instructional strategies used in geoscience classrooms. Instruction in the most Student Centered classrooms differs from that in Transitional and Teacher Centered classrooms in at least one of three ways. Student Centered classes are more likely to include (1) students engaged in class activities with one another; (2) activities in which instructors assess student learning and adjust lessons accordingly; and (3) opportunities for students to answer and pose questions that determine the focus of a lesson.


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