Co-Creation in Oceanography

This page contains additional information to the article “Co-creating learning in oceanography” (Glessmer & Daae, 2021). But we want to grow this collection over time: Do you have any examples of co-creation that you would like to share and see included here? Then please do get in touch with me!

In Glessmer & Daae (2021), we describe teaching methods on the continuum from student engagement towards co-creation (visualised as climbing the ladder in the figure above). The methods address feelings of

A: competence
B: autonomy, and
C: relatedness

which, according to self-determination theory (Deci and Ryan, 2000) are required for intrinsic motivation.

Below, we provide links to more information about our experiences with each of the methods (numbering of the sections below refers to the arrows in the figure above. Note that many of the methods address more than one aspect of intrinsic motivation, and that placement on the ladder is only approximate and depends on how the method is implemented).


A) Experience competence: Relating course content to students’ everyday experiences

If students feel that course content is actually relevant to their daily lives, giving them new options of understanding and acting in the world, they are more motivated to engage with the content. If they then also feel that they are mastering things that are helping them live their lives better (in whatever small way), this feeling of competence helps them learn more and better.

A1: Multiple-choice questions

Multiple-choice questions are so much more than an (oftentimes really bad) summative assessment tool! We give an example for how to use multiple-choice questions to promote discussion and critical thinking here.

A2: Suggesting own examples

Crowd-sourcing examples suddenly brings discussions from theoretical to actually interesting, because they become relevant to students lives! See one example here.

A3: Observing disciplinary content in real life

The goal is to let students see the world from a new, disciplinary perspective. There are many ways how this can be done:

  • Discovering disciplinary content in everyday experiences: For example using coffee to talk about the hydrological cycle or oceanic mixing processes (see here)
  • Doing easy hands-on experiments at home: Understanding the large-scale ocean circulation with common household items (#KitchenOceanography)
  • Going on hyper-local expeditions right outside the students’ homes: Discovering ocean physics in the sink, a puddle, a storm drain or any other body of water near you (#WaveWatching)

A4: Students plan course themselves

We have not yet reached this level of co-creation, but we are slowly but surely working our way towards it!


B) Experience autonomy: Giving students choices

It is very important for students to feel like they have some (even if limited) choice in how they spend their time and what they commit ressources to. If they chose option A over option B, option A might still not be their favourite thing to do, but it’s already better than having been forced to do it, or worse, option B. So whenever we can, we aim to give students choices.

B1: Choose between different examples

Sometimes the same learning outcomes can be reached equally well by working through any of several examples. Then why not let students choose the example? It’ll make them a lot more engaged! More here.

B2: Create own questions

B3: Include “missing perspectives”

Reserving one or several sessions for topics that students think should be included is a great way of increasing perceived relevance and ownership. One example here.

B4: Choose format of assessment

Sometimes it is a lot more interesting to write a blog post than a traditional lab report, and if that works with the learning outcomes, why not let students choose the format of their assessments? More here!

B5: Negotiate a rubric of learning outcomes

Learning outcomes don’t have to be prescribed by the teacher, there are a lot of benefits from co-creating them with students! Read about our experiences here and here.

B6: Discuss curriculum or study program

We have not yet reached this level of co-creation, but we are slowly but surely working our way towards it!


C) Experience relatedness: Reducing barriers for contribution and fostering exchange

Feeling related does not mean that students need to work with other students all the time. It can also mean that they are working on their own but know that they have a network of supportive peers that they could turn to, should they want to discuss something or ask for help. Therefore including methods that help build networks between students is good for student motivation (and additionally, peer instruction has been shown to have really positive effects on student learning).

C1) Think-pair-share

Think-pair-share is a great method to actively involve all students and lower the barrier of participation. It can be prompted by many different types of questions. One example of how think-pair-share can be used in combination with multiple-choice questions is given here.

C2) Small groups work on shared artefacts

We love having groups work together on a shared document! Whiteboards in an in-person setting, or shared online slides in both in-person and virtual groups. And we have a favourite method to prevent groups falling into pattern that unevenly distribute responsibilities and workload. Read more about all of that here.

C3) Ask for “things I didn’t get a chance to say”

To make sure all students get heard, we like asking for written feedback on “things I wanted to say but didn’t get the chance…”. More here.

C4) Discuss with student representatives

Sometimes it is easier to discuss with one or two representative students than with the whole class. More here.

C5) Teach classes at different levels together

Teaching a lab course with second and third year students together (despite them having different learning outcomes!) was a really positive experience for us. More here.

C6) Plan whole course with students

We have not yet reached this level of co-creation, but we are slowly but surely working our way towards it!

*The ladder figure is inspired by: Bovill, C., and C.J. Bulley. 2011. A model of active student participation in curriculum design: Exploring desirability and possibility. Pp. 176–188 in Improving Student Learning (ISL) 18: Global Theories and Local Practices: Institutional, Disciplinary and Cultural Variations. C. Rust, ed., The Oxford Centre for Staff and Educational Development, Oxford.


Glessmer, M.S., and K. Daae. 2021. Co-creating learning in oceanography. Oceanography 34(4),