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  1. Free, publicly-accessible full text available February 1, 2023
  2. Following the culmination of an ambitious Earth science education initiative, scientists and educators met to prioritize ways in which education about Earth can foster sustainable societies.
  3. We compared 236 geoscience instructors’ histories of professional development (PD) participation with classroom observations using the Reformed Teaching Observation Protocol (RTOP) that describe undergraduate classes as Student-Centered (score ≥ 50), Transitional (score 31–49) or Teacher-Centered (score ≤ 30). Instructors who attended PD (n = 111) have higher average RTOP scores (44.5 vs. 34.2) and are more frequently observed teaching Student-Centered classes (33% vs. 13%) than instructors with no PD (p < 0.001). Instructors who attended PD that is topically-aligned with content taught during the classroom observation are likely to have RTOP scores that are higher by 13.5 points (p < 0.0001), and are 5.6 times more likely to teach a Student-Centered class than instructors without topically-aligned PD. Comparable odds of teaching Student-Centered classes (5.8x) occur for instructors who attended two topical PD events but were observed teaching a different topic. Models suggest that instructors with at least 24 h of PD are significantly more likely to teach a Student-Centered class than instructors with fewer hours. Our results highlight the effectiveness of discipline-specific PD in impacting teaching practices, and the importance of attending more than one such PD event to aid transfer of learning.