2004 Denver Annual Meeting (November 7–10, 2004)

Paper No. 6
Presentation Time: 9:30 AM


TEWKSBURY, Barbara J.1, REYNOLDS, Stephen J.2 and JOHNSON, Julia K.2, (1)Department of Geology, Hamilton College, 198 College Hill Rd, Clinton, NY 13323-1218, (2)Geological Sciences, Arizona State Univ, Tempe, AZ 85287-1404, btewksbu@hamilton.edu

A concept sketch is a simplified sketch illustrating the main aspects of a concept or system, annotated with concise but complete labels that 1) identify the features, 2) depict the processes that are occurring, and 3) characterize the relationships among features and processes. A concept sketch is more than a labeled diagram, the primary enhancement being the emphasis on processes and relationships. Concept sketches have advantages over concept maps for portraying processes and relationships in the geosciences because concept sketches center around a drawing or diagram that preserves spatial aspects while at the same time going beyond simple labeling.

Having students generate their own concept sketches is a powerful way for students to process concepts and convey them to others. Whereas a student can easily master labeling a diagram but still be unable to articulate the concepts represented by the diagram and labels, a student cannot create a good concept sketch if he/she can go no more deeply than recognizing terms and reciting definitions. Our own experiences, combined with a wealth of general educational research by others, support the positive impact of student-generated concept sketches on student learning.

Successful completion of a concept sketch insures more thoughtful preparation for class than having students simply “do the reading”. Before students sketch, they must decide what the key concepts and processes are, how various aspects are related, and what specific terms really mean in the context of the concepts and processes. For courses in which students read in the literature, concept caption annotation of selected figures in an assigned article can focus students on addressing whether they truly understand what they’ve read.

Making concept sketches in the field forces students to address the question of what processes they see evidence for in the outcrop, what interpretations they can make about development of features, and what evidence supports their interpretations. Making concept sketches in the field forces students to observe more carefully and to make decisions about what is and what isn’t important to record in a sketch. Students leave the outcrop having committed to a level of understanding of process and outcome that typically doesn’t appear in the written notes that a student takes in the field.