2005 Salt Lake City Annual Meeting (October 16–19, 2005)

Paper No. 13
Presentation Time: 5:00 PM


BUTLER FREEMAN, Carol L.1, BUENO WATTS, Nievita2, NEAKRASE, Jennifer J.3, ESCOBAR, Rebecca1, SEMKEN, Steven1 and BAKER, Dale3, (1)Department of Geological Sciences, Arizona State University, PO Box 871404, Tempe, AZ 85287-1404, (2)Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Purdue University, Civil Engineering Building, 550 Stadium Mall Drive, West Lafayette, IN 47907-2051, (3)Division of Curriculum and Instruction, Arizona State University, PO Box 871011, Tempe, AZ 85287-1011, clbutler@asu.edu

It has been proposed that place-based geoscience teaching will enhance sense of place (meanings and attachments that places hold for people) and hence relevance and interest in the subject, among introductory students, particularly those with strong ties to specific regions. As a pilot test of this hypothesis, we designed a place-based, inquiry-oriented lesson focused on the Grand Canyon and implemented it in 9 experimental sections (n ≈ 200) of a diverse, large-enrollment physical-geology laboratory course at ASU during the spring 2005 semester. An additional 9 sections (n ≈ 200), selected as a control group, used the pre-existing lesson, an inquiry exercise that did not evoke the Grand Canyon in similar detail. Each lesson was 1.5 hours in length. Pre- and post-surveys adapted from published validated instruments were used to determine if this relatively brief intervention would have a measurable impact on sense of place (encompassing affective and cognitive dimensions of learning).

We determined that this activity had a significant influence on place attachment (PA) to the Grand Canyon, but not on place meaning. PA was scored on a scale of 12-60, with lower scores indicating stronger attachment. The experimental group's mean score for the post-survey [M=41.79, SD=9.93] was significantly better than for the pre-survey [M=45.27, SD=7.76; t(140)= -4.90, p<0.05, mean difference= -3.48, η2=0.15]. The mean PA score for the control group's post-survey [M=44.34, SD=9.33] was also significantly better than for the pre-survey [M=47.22, SD=9.25; t(116)= -3.82, p<0.05, mean difference= -2.88, η2=0.11]. This lesser but still affirmative change may be attributable to the fact that there was some coverage of the Grand Canyon even in the pre-existing lesson.

Several factors may have influenced the experimental group. The place-based lesson included questions that were more open-ended than those used in the balance of the course. A number of students in the experimental group expressed frustration with the length and style of the laboratory activity, which may have influenced their responses on the post-survey. The lesson was perhaps too brief to affect students' individually-held place meanings. We suggest that a fully-integrated, full-length place-based geoscience curriculum will more effectively enhance sense of place.