Education Research

This work below is now published!  You can read all about the TA training we put together:

Fairfax, E. and M.R.M. Brown (2019), Increasing Inclusion and Accessibility in Undergraduate Geology Labs Through Scenario-Based TA Training, Journal of Geoscience Education, doi: 10.1080/10899995.2019.1602463

Characterizing the Accessibility Climate in the Department of Geological Sciences at CU Boulder 

CU Boulder is an excellent location to study geology in the field.  Our introductory laboratory course features numerous field trips to nearby sites.  Speaking to current and former teaching assistants, a fellow graduate student, Emily Fairfax, and I found they had almost no experience accommodating students with mobility issues on the field trips. The amount of students with physical disabilities is disproportionately low to the general student population.  We hypothesize that the level of field work requirements in the geosciences limits the inclusion of students with disabilities especially in the undergraduate level.  Emily Fairfax and I are co-principal investigators on a project that investigates the “Accessibility Climate” of the Department of Geological Sciences.  We administrated a survey to the faculty, teaching assistants, and graduate students of the Department of Geological Sciences and to undergraduate geology majors and undergraduate students in geology classes during Spring 2017. The survey results will be used to determine the level of accessibility, both experienced and/or perceived within the courses offered in the department, especially courses with field trips. We are again administrating the survey to undergraduate majors and students enrolled in geology classes during Fall 2017.

Increasing Inclusion and Retention in Undergraduate Geology Labs Through Targeted TA Training 

Preliminary results of our “Characterizing the Accessibility Climate” project indicated that many teaching assistants did not feel they had the knowledge to adequately prepare an inclusive classroom.  In addition, teaching assistants largely felt that there were accessibility issues with some of the lessons especially the field trip labs.  In order to prepare new and returning teaching assistants in the Department of Geological Sciences for an inclusive and accessible classroom, Emily Fairfax and I developed and conducted a training session on inclusion and inclusive design.  To assess the training’s effectiveness, both the teaching assistants and undergraduates in their classes were surveyed multiple times over the semester.