Technology and Teaching Methods in Geoscience Education – Results from a Worldwide Survey

Bjørn Nyberg, Henk Keers

Two important topics in university education are the use of technology and the use of teaching methods (specifically active learning methodologies versus more traditional teaching methods). These topics have received considerable attention from both educators and policy makers. However, relatively little is known about these topics, and how they are related. In particular, it is useful to know which technologies are considered important, whether there is a preferred way to teach about and with certain technologies, whether there is any correlation with other factors (such as class size, age of teacher, geographic location, topic, etc.). Moreover, these issues are likely to be dependent on the field/topic. In order to find out about these and related issues, we conducted a worldwide survey on technology and teaching methods among university geoscience educators. The survey consisted of 22 questions and contained three different categories exploring the type and demographics of the course, the use of technology in teaching and the type of teaching used in the course.

Responses were received from 71 people from 65 universities in 23 countries most of whom were relatively experienced (38 with >10 years of teaching experience). The topics (e.g. geophysics, sedimentology, geochemistry), class sizes (from less than 5 to over 70), teaching location (e.g. classroom, field, laboratory) and teaching method (e.g. lecturers, practicals, active learning) varied considerably. The main results suggest that traditional lecturing methods are still important (60%) in a traditional classroom setting (75%), also among the younger generation of geoscience teachers. Most teachers (65%) consider the use of technology to be an essential teaching component but typically rely on traditional presentation aids (44%). However, among the youngest teachers (less than 30 years old) both the use of active learning methods as well as the use of social media technology, to enhance student learning, is higher than among the other teachers. In the next five years, a majority of teachers foresee an increase in the use of technology as an aid in teaching the course (77%) and foresee an increase in teaching the use of technology in the course curriculum (60%). The results highlight that teachers in the geosciences, which is typically viewed as a qualitative, and subjective discipline, see technology as an increasingly important part of the course curriculum, and that there is a correlation with active learning methods, especially in the younger generation.

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