May 2005 Journal of Geoscience Education

Volume 53, Number 3
Teaching Methods in Undergraduate Geoscience Courses: Results of the 2004 On the Cutting Edge Survey of U.S. Faculty
R. Heather Macdonald, Department of Geology, College of William and Mary
Cathryn A. Manduca, Science Education Resource Center, Carleton College
David W. Mogk, Department of Earth Sciences, Montana State University
Barbara J. Tewksbury, Department of Geology, Hamilton College
A survey of U.S. geoscience faculty provides an integrated look at the geoscience courses currently being taught and the teaching methods that are used in these courses. The survey data indicate that there is a wide array of offerings both at the introductory level and for majors and thus no standard geoscience curriculum. While teaching methods remain dominated by lecture, most faculty use a range of more interactive methods. Most students are asked to solve problems including quantitative ones as part of their courses although relatively few explore problems of their own choosing. Writing and reading in the primary literature are used extensively in courses of all sizes at both the introductory level and in courses for majors. Strategies and tools for assessing student learning are strongly dependent on class size; however, students are more likely to be assessed through problem sets, oral presentations or papers in courses for majors. There is no question that research on learning and the resulting recommendations for best classroom practice that have emerged over the past decade have had an impact on geosciences classes. On the other hand, there is room for growth. Our data suggest that most faculty are still using these techniques infrequently. These results strongly support the continued offering of professional development activities that both bring new ideas to faculty and address the practicalities of widespread implementation of these techniques.
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An Indoor Shopping Mall Building Stone Investigation with Handheld Technology for Introductory Geoscience Students
Laura A. Guertin, Earth Science, Penn State Delaware County
Field exercises are a valuable addition to introductory-level geoscience courses but are not always possible in an urban setting. To further develop student skills in rock identification, a project implementing the scientific method has been constructed that allows students to examine the building stones found in the store fronts at a shopping mall. The project is further enhanced with the use of Palm Pilot handheld technology as a tool for reference and data collection. This project allows students to see the use of geologic materials in an everyday setting and experience an innovative use of handheld technology.
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The Three-Point Problem, Vector Analysis and Extension to the N-Point Problem
Michael N. Fienen, Environmental Fluid Mechanics Laboratory, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Stanford University
The three-point problem is well-known in structural geology and hydrogeology. The solution of this problem is used to find the strike and dip of a planar geologic surface using three measurements of point positions located on the surface. I revisit the three-point problem using a vector analysis approach and expand to the n-point problem in which more than three measurements that include measurement error can be used to find one representative solution with a least-squares approach. The work is motivated by a hydrogeologic field example which I discuss briefly.
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Probing Understanding in Physical Geology Using Concept Maps and Clinical Interviews
Amy C. Englebrecht, Department of Geology and Physics, Lake Superior State University
Joel J. Mintzes, Department of Biology, University of North Carolina - Wilmington
Lewis M. Brown, Department of Geology and Physics, Lake Superior State University
Paul R. Kelso, Department of Geology and Physics, Lake Superior State University
Using concept maps and clinical interviews, we assessed the extent to which undergraduate students restructure their conceptual knowledge at progressively more sophisticated levels over the course of a two-semester lecture-based physical geology sequence. Students completed concept mapping exercises and clinical interviews at regular intervals throughout the two semesters and data indicated that the course did not address integration of concepts into student knowledge domains. Concept maps and clinical interviews both illustrated acquisition of geologic concepts longitudinally with a disproportionately small increase in integration of those concepts into frameworks of understanding. However, concept maps and clinical interviews appear to be viable and complementary approaches in determining the degree to which student accomplishment objectives are being met.
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Paleontological Sonification: Letting Music Bring Fossils to Your Ears
A. A. Ekdale, Department of Geology and Geophysics, University of Utah
Alan C. Tripp, Department of Geology and Geophysics, University of Utah
Sonification is the process of translating any type of data into sound. In paleontology, it is possible to render various aspects of fossil shapes, such as cephalopod suture patterns or brachiopod commissure lines, as a series of musical tones that can be recognized easily by the human ear. Paleontological applications of sonification might enable auditory perception of morphologic patterns in fossils that may or may not be visually apparent. Some simple classroom demonstrations can help students understand the potential of using sound to identify different types of fossils with their eyes closed (i.e., using their ears alone).
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Scientists and Public Outreach: Participation, Motivations, and Impediments
Elisabeth Andrews, Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES), University of Colorado - Boulder
Alex Weaver, Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES), University of Colorado - Boulder
Daniel Hanley, School of Education and Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES), University of Colorado - Boulder
Jeffrey Shamatha, Department of Mathematics and Statistics, Northern Arizona University
Ginger Melton, Ethnography and Evaluation Research, Center to Advance Research and Teaching in the Social Sciences, University of Colorado - Boulder

Public funding agencies are increasingly requiring "broader impact" components in research grants. Concurrently, national educational leaders are calling for scientists to partner with educators to reform science education. Through the use of survey and interview data, our study examined the participation of researchers, faculty members, and graduate students from federal research laboratories and a Research I university, who were involved in K-12 and public outreach activities.

We found that scientists were often recruited into K-12 outreach activities by local departmental liaisons, colleagues, or professors. Scientists most frequently gave presentations, tutored, and organized or judged science fairs. Outreach participation varied by career stage, job type, and gender. The strongest motivating factors were a desire to contribute and enjoying their outreach experiences. For graduate students and researchers, a third motivating factor was the chance to improve their teaching and communication skills. Scientists of all types, however, viewed outreach as a form of volunteer work that was auxiliary to their other responsibilities. Time constraints due to other, higher priorities, the lower value placed on outreach by departments, and a lack of detailed information about outreach opportunities were significant barriers to participation. Even so, only a few scientists viewed their outreach experiences negatively, mostly due to classroom management, logistical, or organizational problems, or a lack of outreach skills.

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Developing and Presenting Geoscience Interpretive Programs at Nez Perce National Historical Park, Idaho
Shane V. Smith, Department of Geology, Washington State University
Geoscience interpretive programs are not typically developed and presented at national historical parks and never were at Nez Perce National Historical Park prior to the author's employment at the park. The goal of this paper is to provide examples for creating and implementing geoscience interpretive programs at historical parks. Numerous challenges exist when creating geoscience programs at historical parks with the primary challenge being to maintain a historical theme to the program. This challenge was overcome by the author while employed at Nez Perce National Historical Park by designing two interpretive programs based on the importance of geomorphic features and earth materials in Nez Perce history and culture. Positive feedback from Nez Perce Tribal members, and visitors and staff at Nez Perce National Historical Park demonstrates that it is possible to implement geoscience programs with a historical theme that interest the public.
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Students' Understanding of Complex Dynamic Systems
Federica Raia, Departments of Earth and Atmospheric Science, and Secondary Education, City College of New York
Students' approach to complex dynamic systems and their mental models utilized to construct knowledge, play a powerful role in what students learn in undergraduate college courses. In this paper, I report the analysis of responses to three questions - probing approaches to complexity - given by sixteen upper-level undergraduate students. Results show that students tend to conceptualize dynamic systems in static disjointed terms, considering the isolated behavior of the constituent components. Students also identify a single causal force, or linear chain of unique causal forces to explain complex natural phenomena. Students' attitudes as well as system of beliefs are unaffected in absence of a fundamental shift of paradigm: from a linear-causal thinking approach to a systems thinking approach-characterized by the recognition of the mutual interactions of system components, the ability to distinguish between micro and macro levels of analysis and the understanding of system's emergent property.
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Elementary Students' Ideas Concerning Fossil Fuel Energy
Audrey C. Rule, Department of Curriculum and Instruction, 116 Swetman Hall, State University of New York at Oswego

Forty-two academically gifted and thirty-two average-achieving elementary students in grades one through six were interviewed to determine ideas concerning fossil fuel energy. There were no significant differences between the responses of the two populations. Major categories of misconceptions encountered during interviews included misconceptions about: configuration or distribution of petroleum reservoirs, gasoline manufacture and storage, the origin of petroleum, the importance of petroleum in our society, petroleum prospecting and recovery; and the nature of coal and natural gas.

Misconceptions about fossil fuels arise for a variety of reasons. Students sometimes misunderstand scenes from movies, televisions shows or cartoons, make incorrect analogies with more familiar experiences, misinterpret diagrams in printed materials, misconstrue the meanings of symbols, or confuse similar-sounding terms or words with more than one meaning.

Sixty-seven preservice teachers responding to a ten-question survey to investigate the persistence of fossil fuel misconceptions into adulthood revealed many held the same ideas as elementary students, confirming the importance of addressing younger students' ideas during instruction.

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Who Believes What? Clearing up Confusion over Intelligent Design and Young-Earth Creationism
Marcus R. Ross, Department of Geosciences, 330 Woodward Hall, University of Rhode Island
The question of what differentiates young-Earth creationism (YEC) from Intelligent Design (ID) has resulted in inaccurate and confusing terminology, and hinders both understanding and dialogue. Though both YEC and ID groups have drawn distinctions between themselves, previous attempts to classify design-based positions on origins have been unable to adequately resolve their relationships. The Nested Hierarchy of Design, a multiple-character classification system, categorizes teleological positions according to the strength of claims regarding the reality, detectability, source, method, and timing of design, and results in an accurate and robust classification of numerous positions. This method avoids the philosophical and theological pitfalls of previous methods and enables construction of accurate definitions for a suite of teleological positions. The incorporation of the Nested Hierarchy of Design in classroom discussion could 1) better represent the suite of opinions among students, 2) clarify the many teleological positions, and 3) help to reduce tensions between educators, students, and the public.
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Column (reprint) - Computational Geology 29: Quantitative Literacy: Spreadsheets, Range Charts and Triangular Plots
Len Vacher, University of South Florida

Column - Computational Geology 30: Archimedes Bath - A Better Story
Len Vacher, University of South Florida