Category Archives: Teaching

Holly White, M.S.

Congratulations to Holly White for successfully defending her thesis, entitled, “GROUNDWATER EDUCATION: AN INVESTIGATION OF STUDENTS’ USE OF A GROUNDWATER MODELING TOOL”.  For the past two years, Holly has worked as a graduate assistant as part of the Forbes Group, conducting research on K-12 and undergraduate students’ use of the Hydrogeology Challenge to reason about groundwater, as well as serving as a teaching assistant for the SCIL 109 course. Prior to that, Holly was a student in the 109 course and UCARE undergraduate researcher with the E2FEW project.   It has been a pleasure to work with Holly as both project PI and her advisor. Molly’s thesis study was conducted in partial fulfillment of requirements for the degree of Master of Science in UNL School of Natural Resources.  Her committee members included Drs. Dave Gosselin and Trenton Franz.

SCIL | AECN| ENVR | GEOG | NRES | 109 Spring 2021

For the past 4 years, with support from the NSF and now USDA-NIFA, we have developed and offered (annually) a new interdisciplinary, introductory-level undergraduate water course for UNL students – Water in Society (SCIL 109).  The 109 course is highly innovative and touches on many of today’s most pressing water-related challenges in Nebraska and beyond. Now, through through the Big Ten Academic Alliance Online Course Sharing Program and Nebraska Now programs, we are excited to be able to offer an online version of this course to undergraduate students from other institutions and upper-level high school students in spring, 2021.  Through Nebraska Now, current high school students are able to enroll in the course for a significantly reduced tuition rate ($330) and, if they receive a B or better, will be eligible for a $1000 merit-based scholarship to UNL.  Completion of the Water in Society course will also help students meet UNL undergraduate general education requirements (either ACE 4 or 8).  As part of BTTA, undergraduate students at Indiana University, the University of Maryland, Michigan State University, Ohio State University, Pennsylvania State University, and Rutgers University-New Brunswick may enroll in this UNL-based course with all associated tuition and fees waived. In spring, 2021, the 109 course will be 100% online and asynchronous, giving students maximum flexibility to complete the course at their own pace from anywhere with support from a fantastic instructional team. 

Please download the 2021 course flyer for more information.

USDA-NIFA funding to support SCIL 109

New funding from a USDA-NIFA C1 Higher Education Challenge grant (grant no. 2020-70003-30928/project accession no. 1021842) will provide continued support for the WELL project, SCIL 109, and our team’s work in undergraduate education. Over the next 3 years, in collaboration with a team from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette led by Emad Habib, we will develop, implement, and evaluate a new undergraduate curriculum module grounded in an innovative, online, data-driven tool – HydroViz – through which undergraduate students use national water datasets to explore, explain, reason, and make decisions about contemporary socio-hydrological challenges in the Food-Energy-Water-Nexus (FEW-Nexus). The pilot-tested, research-based instructional module will then be disseminated to undergraduate instructors nationwide (Year 3) in the form of faculty development workshops, designed around core tenets of effective undergraduate STEM instruction, to support their implementation of these new resources in their own undergraduate courses. The new USDA-NIFA funding reflects the next phase of our ongoing work supporting undergraduate students socio-hydrologic reasoning through the use of data-driven, computer-based water systems modeling tools as a core feature of the SCIL 109 course. Check out the SNR media release about the new project!

Diane Lally, Ph.D.

Congratulations to Dr. Diane Lally for successfully defending her dissertation, entitled, “GEOSCIENCE EDUCATION RESEARCH: TRENDS AND APPLICATIONS IN UNDERGRADUATE COURSES“.  For the past five years, Diane has worked as a graduate assistant as part of the Forbes Group, conducting research on undergraduate students’ model-based reasoning and systems thinking about water systems, as well as serving as a teaching assistant for the SCIL 109 course, all part of the WELL project. Diane’s studies, all published, collectively contribute to undergraduate geoscience education about sociohydrologic systems. It has been a pleasure to work with Diane as both project PI and her advisor. Diane’s dissertation was conducted in partial fulfillment of Ph.D. requirements in UNL School of Natural Resources.  Her committee members included Drs. Jenny Dauer, Trenton Franz, and Christine Cutucache.

Invited talk, CUAHSI Fall Cyberseminar Series: Emerging Advances in Hydrologic Education

In October, I had the opportunity to give an invited talk as part of the Consortium of Universities for the Advancement of Hydrologic Science (CUAHSI) Fall, 2019 Cyberseminar Series: Emerging Advances in Hydrologic Education. This presentation – Teaching and Learning about Socio-Hydrological Systems in an Introductory Undergraduate Water Course – provided an overview of empirical findings from WELL project research in the SCIL 109 course over the past 3 years. The seminar provided a great opportunity to engage with water scientists interested in teaching and learning about water and water systems. Many thanks to Dr. Emad Habib, University of Louisiana at Lafayette, for the invitation, and to attendees for the great questions and discussion.

New publication on undergraduate students’ model-based reasoning about water systems

Congrats to current doctoral student Diane Lally on publication of WELL project research from the SCIL 109 course. In this study, Diane investigated undergraduate students’ use and evaluation of a data-driven, computer-based modeling tools developed by Co-PI, course co-instructor, and SNR colleague Trenton Franz. The study, which compares student outcomes over the 1st and 2nd year of the course, also provides evidence for the impact of ongoing course refinement we have been engaged in over time as part of the project. The study adds to a growing number of publications from our project work with the 109 course, as well as broader efforts within my research group focused on model-based teaching and learning. It’s great to have empirical evidence in support of our team’s hard work on the 109 course over the last 3 years and kudos to Diane for her significant contributions to this work!

Lally, D. & Forbes, C.T. (2019).  Modeling water systems in an introductory undergraduate course: Students’ use and evaluation of data-driven, computer-based modelsInternational Journal of Science Education, 41(14), 1999-2023.

Publications on undergraduate geoscience education in the U.S.

Over the past two years, I have had the opportunity to contribute as a research team member on the National Geoscience Faculty Survey project led by SERC and made possible by funding from NSF. As part of this effort, I was fortunate to collaborate with Dr. Karen McNeal, as well as doctoral students Diane Lally (UNL) and Nick Soltis (Auburn University), on analysis of data from the 2016 administration of the survey to investigate U.S. geoscience faculty members’ reported emphasis on scientific modeling and systems thinking in their undergraduate courses. Based on a sample of over 2000 postsecondary instructors, this shows these elements to be more heavily emphasized by faculty members from certain geoscience subdisciplines than others and who generally show greater engagement with instructional innovation. This was a great experience working with a wonderful team on a unique dataset and we all hope these are findings that will be accessible and useful to postsecondary geoscience faculty nationwide.

Lally, D., Forbes, C.T., McNeal, K., & Soltis, N. (2019).  National Geoscience Faculty Survey 2016: Prevalence of systems thinking and scientific modeling learning opportunities. Journal of Geoscience Education, 67(2), 174-191.

Soltis, N., McNeal, K., Forbes, C.T. & Lally, D. (2019).  The relationship between active learning, course innovation, and teaching Earth systems thinking: A structural equation modeling approach. Geosphere, 15(5), 1703-1721.

ESERA Summer School 2019

As part of my Fulbright stay in Germany this summer, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to participate in the European Science Education Research Association‘s 2019 summer school for graduate students. Held June 4-9 in Crete, Greece, the summer school brought together nearly 50 doctoral students and 20 faculty mentors from around the world to support graduate-level science education research. During the event, I gave an invited plenary talk on results of Fulbright-supported PISA-focused research and served as a faculty mentor. The event was highly engaging and presented an outstanding opportunity to learn about and advance high-quality science education research focused on many different topics spanning grade levels and disciplinary domains. It was great work with faculty colleagues from across Europe in service of the goals and mission of this annual event. Kudos to Dimitris Stavrou, Professor of Science Education at the Department of Primary Education, University of Crete, and Chair of the organizing committee, for putting together a productive program and offering Crete as an amazing site for the summer school!

Invited grad colloquium in Cyprus

This past weekend, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to travel from Kiel, Germany to Nicosia, Cyprus at the invitation of colleagues in the School of Humanities, Social, and Education Sciences at the European University-Cyprus. Each spring, the Department of Education Sciences holds day-long colloquium for Ph.D. students with a focus on enhancing their education research skills and sharing international perspectives on education research. I had the pleasure of presenting and facilitating a working session on the role of theory in education research. My presentation, entitled, “Theory in Education Research: The Reciprocity of Scholarly Thought and Action”, focused on some foundational ideas about the reciprocal relationship between theory and empirical research. As part of the session, students used examples from current CliMES project and PISA analyses to explore these ideas through concrete examples. This was an engaging ‘value-added’ opportunity made possible by my Fulbright and really fun to think explicitly about some of these aspects of our scholarly work that become increasingly internalized over time. Many thanks to Prof. Loucas Louca for the invitation to make the quick trip to Cyprus.

Petitt thesis publication

Congrats to former Masters student and WELL project team member Destini Petitt on publication of her thesis research conducted as part of the WELL project. Destini’s study explored how undergraduate students from developing and developed countries leveraged their values to reason about socio-hydrological issues. Published in Natural Sciences Education, the article illustrates students’ priority values, alignment between these priority values and their proposed solutions to water-related challenges, as well as similarities and differences in both between the two groups of students.

Petitt, D.N. & Forbes, C.T. (2019). Values use of undergraduate students in socio-hydrological reasoning: A comparative study. Natural Sciences Education, 48(1), 1-12.

We wish Destini the best of luck in her doctoral work in the Dept. of Geography and Earth Sciences at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte!