GARNET: Geoscience Affective Research Network







GARNET examines the connection between the affective domain and STEM learning outcomes for students in introductory physical geology classes. The affective domain involves attitudes, feelings and emotions that may hinder or promote learning.  GARNET institutions comprise a cross-section of the higher education spectrum from large, public research universities (North Carolina State University, University of Colorado, Boulder, University of North Dakota, California State University, Chico), to smaller, private liberal arts colleges (Macalester College), and two-year community colleges (North Hennepin Community College).  These schools form the infrastructure for the first stage of a potentially long-term research program.  The project goals are:

  1. To use a common instrument, Motivated Strategies for Learning Questionnaire (MSLQ), to investigate how aspects of the affective domain, in particular student motivation, vary for students in introductory geoscience courses at a range of institutions;
  2. To identify if and how those aspects vary with instructor, learning environments, and class characteristics. 

The MSLQ (Table 1) is an 81-item scale developed by Paul Pintrich and coworkers at the University of Michigan (Pintrich and others, 1991, 1993).  The MSLQ assumes that motivation is a dynamic trait that can be influenced by activities in a given course.  The survey instrument is divided into six subcategories containing 15 separate subscales (Table 1; Pintrich and others, 1991; Duncan and McKeachie, 2005).  These subscales include a variety of affective dimensions, including value (task value), interest (intrinsic goal orientation), and attitude (self-efficacy, control of learning beliefs).  Pintrich grouped these constructs under the general category of motivation.  

Try an abbreviated version of the MSLQ by taking this online survey at the University of Arizona.

The project builds on an existing knowledge base in educational psychology that has been applied in a limited way to some college science classes but there is a paucity of information on the affective domain in introductory geoscience courses that hinders the potential of instructors to engage students and enhance science learning processes.  The database generated by GARNET will be used to uniquely identify factors affecting student motivation in order to better inform geoscience and other science disciplines in terms of the importance of affective constructs (e.g., goal orientation, self efficacy) in introductory classes.  Our key hypotheses are that:

  • The affective domain is a major control on student learning;
  • How we teach can significantly change students’ affective behavior. 

The outcome of this research will be pedagogical resources and strategies that will allow us to develop better university introductory STEM classes aimed at increasing the number of STEM majors and improving student retention rates.

For more information on the affective domain in geoscience education, go here.
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MEAS Geoscience Education