Universities make claims about student learning that graduates don't often achieve and are under pressure to show improvement in teaching and learning in their undergraduate programs. This has been the constant focus of university-level professional development programs, but most teachers are still not using the most effective teaching methods. Individual departments need to find ways to help their instructors overcome three main challenges associated with adopting more effective student-centered teaching methods. No matter what strategy is adopted, instructors need considerable support to 1) change their beliefs about what constitutes effective teaching and learning, 2) learn to effectively implement new strategies, and 3) help their students change their beliefs about teaching and learning. We investigated whether M.S. Geoscience Education graduate students could offer the support instructors need to overcome the challenges listed above. We successfully piloted this approach during 2006 to 2008. Receiving consistent and individualized support from a Geoscience Education graduate student, the instructor changed his beliefs about teaching and learning and learned to effectively implement active learning strategies. His teaching satisfaction and student ratings also increased. Advantages of our approach include 1) the time the graduate student devoted to making course changes, 2) the consistent support the instructor received which allowed him to transfer research supported educational theory into his teaching practice, and 3) the instructor is now a departmental resource that other instructors can go to for guidance. Disadvantages include 1) the graduate student's lack of experience as a teaching consultant and 2) the difficulty of transforming a professor/student relationship into a client/consultant relationship.



College and Department

Physical and Mathematical Sciences; Geological Sciences



Date Submitted


Document Type





faculty development, active learning, student-centered learning, teaching, strategies, reform, department, university teaching, learning outcomes, teaching methods, teaching beliefs



Included in

Geology Commons