'Only connect'; helping students transfer knowledge into and out of the geoscience classroom
Mary E Savina April 2005 Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs - vol.37, no.5, pp.10.
Abstract: One of the learning elements we value most highly is students' ability to transfer knowledge from one context to another. Bransford et al. (2000, How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School) cites these factors as particularly important in helping students transfer knowledge and skills: assessing and working with students' background knowledge and misconceptions; motivating students by asking them to use their knowledge to help others; presenting interesting problems in multiple contexts; asking students to devise and test problem-solving tools; and promoting habits of metacognition through frequent feedback. In geoscience, transfer can be relatively simple (for instance, asking students both to write about and to sketch the sequence of sediments in a floodplain with distance from the river). It can also be more complex, as in the expectation that students will know how to apply the laws of thermodynamics to petrologic systems. Transfer of skills and knowledge in and out of geoscience classrooms is complicated by the difference between abstract principles (emphasized in many mathematics and physics courses, for instance) and the concrete examples used in many geoscience contexts. It is also complicated by interesting disjunctions in timing of particular content between geoscience and other disciplines. For instance, phase diagrams and related thermodynamic concepts appear in second-level mineralogy classes in geoscience and in senior level courses in chemistry. Geoscience faculty can become even more intentional about helping undergraduate students make the connections that will help them integrate knowledge of various types and develop the intellectual agility we value.