Science Education Research and Teaching Projects

A Next-Generation Concept Inventory for the Environmental Sciences

This work is supported by a $1 million grant from the National Science Foundation. UNC Environmental Studies faculty member Chelsie Romulo leads the project, which also incorporates an artificial intelligence grading system that is being developed at Michigan State University. Here is a press release for our grant –

Dr. Romulo has put together a website for our grant here –

Link to our 2020 Geological Society of America conference presentation “Introducing a Next Generation Concept Inventory using Constructed Response”

Link to our 2020 Association of Environmental Studies and Sciences conference presentation “What’s Missing in Environmental Studies and Science and What to Do About It

Link to our 2020 Association of Environmental Studies and Sciences conference presentation “What are We Covering in Introductory Environmental Courses?

TedEd Lesson on Volcanoes

In 2019 and 2020, I worked with the folks from TedEd to put together an online lesson on what makes volcanoes erupt. The presentation is aimed at high school and college students, and talks mostly about the physical conditions needed to make an eruption. You can access the video and related materials here:

International Geoscience Education Organisation (IGEO)

Since 2016 I have served as a US Councilor on the International Geoscience Education Organisation, a group that promotes the geosciences world wide at all education levels. The group has a number of major outreach initiatives that you can learn more about here – , including the publication of a free to use international geology textbook aimed at high school and college students (here is the link for the free text, published in several languages –

Semester at Sea Spring 2015 Voyage

Perhaps the single most impactful event of my life was participating as a faculty member for the Spring 2015 Semester at Sea Voyage. I could devote an entire website to the things I experienced traveling around the world on a ship with 600 college students, faculty, staff and their families. I taught 3 courses on the voyage, ran field trips in Hawaii, South Africa and Morocco, and made friends I will have for the rest of my life. I am not eloquent enough to properly convey what this experience meant to me, so I will take the easy way out and simply post a collage of pictures. The only words that come to mind are – I will never be the same. Click on the photos below for full-sized version (some of the thumbnails below are cropped). Go to for more details.

News story on our Hawaii field lab!

Photo by SAS student Scott Minard

The role of physics in learning Earth science concepts

Working with my long time colleague Julie Libarkin from Michigan State University, we investigated the role that physics plays in learning Earth science concepts. Using data from the GCI (Geoscience Concept Inventory – see below) we found that nearly half of the concepts that students struggled with the most have a strong physics and chemistry tie. We suggested that unless students have a firm grasp of basic physics and chemistry, they may have difficulty understanding some fundamental geoscience concepts. The work was published in the Journal of Geoscience Education in 2016 (Anderson and Libarkin, 2016 – see Publications.)

NCAR Global Climate Change Research Experience for Teachers

This work was supported by a $500K grant from NASA’s Global Climate Change Education program. Working with my colleagues from the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, we trained cohorts of teachers from all over the country on how to adapt their classrooms and lessons to incorporated more learning on climate change issues. Teachers stayed in residence at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colorado, where they were surrounded by scientists, education experts, and communications specialists who could assist them with their work.

Promoting and Supporting Community College Transfer Students in Chemistry

Supported by a $600K grant from the National Science Foundation’s S-STEM program, I worked with Kim Pacheco and Robin Macaluso from UNC’s Chemistry Department on a program to help students make the jump from local community colleges to UNC. The program included mentoring, financial assistance, working with the UNC registrar to develop matriculation agreements for course transfers, and money for research.

The Geoscience Concept Inventory

Supported by two large NSF grants, I worked with Dr. Julie Libarkin (Michigan State University) to develop a research-grade exam for introductory geology students that tests their background knowledge on fundamental geology concepts. This work was a huge undertaking that has resulted in numerous publications. One of our first papers, Libarkin et al., 2005 (See Publications) is the most cited paper in the history of the Journal of Geoscience Education. Julie has an extension website that describes the GCI, its creating, publications, instructions for how to use it, and links to other concept inventories in science.

%d bloggers like this: