1.3 The Education Symposium at 25: Where do we go from here?

Monday, 11 January 2016: 11:45 AM
Room 353 ( New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center)
Rajul E. Pandya, American Geophysical Union, Boulder, CO

Since its start in 1991, the Education Symposium has grown in every measurable way: the number of sessions, the number of presentations and posters, and the number of attendees. Even with all that growth, the symposium has not lost the intimate feel that allows ample opportunity for one on one networking. The symposium has also stayed to true to its pragmatic roots and still provides a plethora of frontline teaching tips and ample information about educational programs.

At the same time, the leaders have made a concerted effort to welcome new people and their ideas to the symposium. It has become a venue that advances the scholarship of teaching and learning in the atmospheric and related sciences and a place to thoroughly investigate how technology can transform learning in our data-driven fields. The session has hosted some of the discussions that have helped set the course for our field: for example, collecting input and advice that contributed to the new AMS statement on the Bachelor's Degree in Atmospheric Science.

As the symposium marks its 25th anniversary, it is an opportunity to draw on the successes of the past and position the symposium to be a leader for the next 25 years. It is an opportunity to ask what can the symposium do to stay at the leading edge, and to help our participants stay at the leading edge, of geoscience educational practice and research. I'd like to use this talk to raise a few ideas that might be part of answering that question. These are based on an informal analysis of the thing I've heard at past symposia. Even if the ideas are themselves wrong, the process of asking ourselves what it would mean to be leaders in education for the atmospheric and related sciences is a useful exercise.

Diverse learning experiences. Students have more options than ever, and the traditional four-year college degree is becoming less accessible. Today's college graduate likely accomplished their degree through a mix of high-school advance placement, online classes at their school, community college, a MOOC or two, an internship, a field experience, an undergraduate thesis, a certificate program, related volunteer experiences, and perhaps even a publication or two. They may have even travelled abroad and gained additional experience. Can the education symposium help sort out which experiences are best suited to which geoscience related learning outcomes? Can it explore how to make these experiences accessible and valuable to different students from different backgrounds? Can it help develop frameworks or at least a knowledge base that we can use to integrate formal and informal educational experiences into a compelling and productive educational experience and provide evidence of that experience for future employers or schools?

A shift from meteorology to Earth and space sciences. In K-12, college, and professional practice the goal of teaching about the weather is being replaced by a perspective that, at minimum, seeks to use weather and climate knowledge to support decision making and planning. At the most integrative, we are asking students to learn and integrate concepts from across the Earth and space sciences, and connect those broader concepts with social, legal, and ethical concerns. How do we balance this call for increasing interconnection with the need to maintain core capability in the atmospheric and related sciences? How do we continue to support useful specialization, offer pathways and specialties that bridge those specialization, and nurture the generalists who can pull it all together? A very closely related question is what do our students need to learn to be competitive for tomorrow's jobs. This is especially urgent given the rapid pace of change in two of our largest employment sectors: broadcast and research.

Staying connected to K-12. The education symposium has always included a focus on K-12 - in fact, early symposiums grew through the substantial efforts of the AMS's Atmospheric Education Resource Agents, a group of K-12 teachers who were active in revitalizing weather and climate in K-12 curricula all over the nation. Also, the participation of K-12 teachers helps bridge the gap from research to practice, helps create and maintain pathways into atmospheric science careers, and helps ensure knowledge of Earth science related topics in the larger, decision-making, public. The symposium has an opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to K-12 even as we look for creative ways to keep K-12 teachers engaged as the AERA programs that supported their participation change. How could the symposium adapt to maintain its connection to K-12?

Innovative Approaches to Symposia. There have been a host of innovations in the symposium, which begs the question of what can we do to encourage more? Education-symposium participants are probably hyper-aware of the limitations of a series of 15 minute talks can we commit to introducing and evaluating at least one new approach a year with the goal of generating new approaches that make work through out AMS meetings? In this spirit, I will also commit to trying one new approach.

The Education Symposium has a long history that can be measured in years, participants, or presentations. Its real impact, however, is in terms of ideas sparked, shared, and refined and the influence those ideas have. Here is to many more years as a catalyst for new ideas.

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