Service-Learning in Undergraduate Geosciences: A Public Workshop
Strategies for increasing the number of students who obtain degrees in STEM fields and broadening the diversity of students who declare STEM majors are the focus of considerable national attention (PCAST, 2012). This national conversation is particularly important in the geosciences where there is a disparity in the number of underrepresented minorities who pursue geoscience majors. In addressing these needs, STEM educators seek to identify and employ evidence-based best practices for engaging and teaching students. Service-learning is a method for teaching and learning which engages students in classroom-based inquiry experiences that incorporate meaningful service to the community, thereby both improving student learning and fostering a sense of civic responsibility. Service-learning in the STEM disciplines is a promising strategy for providing a rigorous and relevant STEM curriculum and giving students the skills needed to succeed in the 21st century.
The National Academy of Science (NAS) Board on Science Education (BOSE) is convening in early 2016 a 2-day public workshop on the role of service-learning in undergraduate geoscience education. This workshop provides a venue for an in-depth exploration of how service-learning is being used in geoscience education, an analysis of the potential benefits of this approach, and evaluation of the strength of the evidence base regarding impacts. Participants in the workshop will be discussing which student outcomes are most likely to be influenced by a service-learning experience, what "best practices" for service-learning in the geosciences might look like (informed both by geoscience exemplars and exemplars from other STEM disciplines), the potential challenges to implementing service-learning approaches in undergraduate geoscience courses, and areas where additional research might be needed. Six outside experts in this field are being commissioned to prepare white papers in advance of the workshop. A final workshop report will be printed and distributed to relevant stakeholder audiences at the completion of the project.