GARNET: Geoscience Affective Research Network







Introductory geoscience courses can vary tremendously across institutions in course material covered and class characteristics (e.g., teaching styles, assessment methods, class size, etc.).  In addition to examining the connection between student affects and learning outcomes in physical geology classes, we will also consider instructor affects.  For example, we will explore how instructors approach their classes, what they place value on, their expectations, and how they respond to student needs.  Finally, we recognize that student populations vary between courses within an institution and across institutions.

From our analysis we anticipate identifying specific pedagogical stratagies that can help inform geoscience (and possibly other science) educators in the role of the affective domain in introductory classes.  The instructional strategies may lead to positive and possibly long lasting changes in the students’ motivation, value and emotional response to science concepts and process.  A major benefit of our multi-institutional, collaborative approach is that we will collect data from a broad demographic spectrum (including ethnic variation in student population, types of university and geographic distribution) therefore allowing us to produce models that have broad applicability.  Some specific research questions that will be addressed during this project include:

  • What are the characteristics of students’ affective constructs in introductory geoscience courses, and how do they interact with cognition and motivation? 
    • What is the nature of change in students’ cognition and motivation over the period of instruction?
    • What is the relative influence of factors such as instructor characteristics, pedagogical strategies, course material, and student demographic characteristics?
    • What intervention strategies have a positive influence on factors such as motivation?  How do these intervention strategies vary within or among courses?
  • What is the link between specific affective constructs and performance? 
    • What is the relative importance of factors such as motivation and prior science knowledge in determining student performance?
  • How do student ratings of their affective dimensions impact the decision to become a major? 
    • Do geoscience majors score differently on affective domain scales than non-majors?
    • Is there a correlation between changes in affective domain and a student’s interest in majoring in geosciences?

Ten instructors at six institutions will participate in this project.  GARNET will draw participation from a range of institutional types, including community colleges (North Hennepin), liberal arts Baccalaureate colleges (Macalester), comprehensive Master’s universities (CSU Chico), and Doctorate-granting research universities (U. of Colorado, U. of North Dakota, North Carolina State U.).  These physical geology courses will have a cumulative enrollment of more than 1,000 students per year. Classes have 30-200 students and are taught as large lecture classes and begin this project with a range of pedagogical approaches from “traditional” passive learning didactic lecture to a collaborative, small group active learning format.  We will use the Motivated Strategies for Learning Questionnaire (MSLQ), combined with a short student demographic questionnaire, student ACT/SAT scores and class scores, faculty questionnaires, and the Reformed Teaching Observation Protocol (RTOP) to investigate the relationship between motivation and cognition and the influence of different pedagogical approaches. 

Ongoing Research

If you are interested in working on any aspects of this research, contact me at

<Background References>
MEAS Geoscience Education