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Multiple Paths into GER

Adjusting to a new intellectual and cultural landscape

Because GER is a relatively new field of study, many researchers come to the field as "border crossers", with formal training in the geosciences or another related field. The non-linearity of pathways (e.g., managing mid-career turns) means there is a lot to adjust along the way. Transitioning to a new field is exciting but also involves a new intellectual and cultural landscape. Geoscience education researchers who have made that transition share the following observations and advice about that transition:

Professional training paths

A background in "traditional" geoscience disciplinary training gives a good foundation for the disciplinary side of discipline-based education research (DBER). However, geoscientists transitioning to GER will need to obtain a new set of skills too. Learning educational theories and methodologies will be important to design research that can address GER questions and hypotheses, and becoming familiar with education literature will elevate the level of scholarship on geoscience teaching and learning as well. In contrast, for those that enter GER with formal training in educational research, they will need to develop and demonstrate basic competency/skills in geoscience. Therefore an undergraduate degree in geoscience, followed by graduate work in education or geoscience education specifically can provide a good foundation for GER. Lastly, while uncommon in past decades, there are now doctoral programs with GER core courses and competencies that provide a direct route to GER. This path results in early career expertise in research methodologies.

Challenges of culture & "cultureshock"

Transitioning to GER brings with it new norms and expectations. For example, there is technical language specific to GER. In addition, because it is a new frontier of qualitative inquiry in the geosciences, GER can sometimes be seen as "less than" and/or not belonging in geoscience. In worst case scenarios, this can lead to mockery, shaming behavior, and self-doubt which are expressions of a lack of validation or respect for GER scholarly work. Therefore, geoscience education researchers may face new perceptions by old colleagues and sense the need to strive for legitimacy.

Networks and support

Because of the interdisciplinary nature of GER, there is a broad network of support for new geoscience education researchers to tap for advice and support. For example, the Geoscience Education Research (GER) Division members include formally trained geoscientists, social scientists, and education researchers. Therefore there is the abavailability of support from social scientists and education researchers for geologists entering GER. Likewise, there is the availability of support from GER geologists for education researchers entering GER. In addition, because GER is not the only DBER field, opportunities for crossover and integrated groups across the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) DBER disciplines also exist, potentially even on your campus.

Women and minorities in GER

Women are well-represented in GER, therefore may feel a reduced sense of isolation and a more welcoming environment. In contrast, the proportion of minorities in GER is reflective of demographics of geoscience as a whole, and therefore may continue to feel isolated in GER as in the rest of academia. However there tends to be an extant culture of inclusivity in GER, that is perhaps more so than in geoscience as a whole. Unfortunately, latent and overt sexism and racism in academia still can works against individuals and the GER field, and conflict can arise where GER intersects with geosciences in the academic workplace.

Perception challenges

Tenure-track GER hires are typically new positions, therefore resources have to be present to support GER hires and this may face concern that a GER hire will limit/eliminate other lines. At a broader level, the GER field faces low visibility among other DBER fields; this will take more cross-disciplinary interactions and increased visibility of GER via high quality publications in education journals of wide-readership.

Coming through the "Service" entrance

An additional path to GER is via "Service" to your your department or profession. For example, a geoscientist with a scholarly interest in geoscience teaching and learning may take on a larger than normal service load (e.g., cover introductory classes, be assigned the assessments tasks for the department, and be a broader impact broker for geoscience grant proposals). These are all important roles and can be very satisfying and productive. However, if you are interested more in DBER it is important to be proactive in your research in order to expand from a service-dominated role.

Walking through the "Formal" entrance

As nascent field, GER has a small population of graduate students who finish GER programs and start careers, as well as a small population of faculty who train students in GER. Research postdocs (especially those with institutional support) are becoming more common, as are more linear career pathways in GER. Recruiting and visibility has improved in settings that have traditionally been more disciplinary-focused, but more activity in this area is needed.


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