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

Paper No. 9
Presentation Time: 3:30 PM


KRISSEK, Lawrence A., Department of Geological Sciences, Ohio State Univ, 130 Orton Hall, 155 So. Oval Mall, Columbus, OH 43210-1308 and TRUNDLE, Kathy Cabe, School of Teaching and Learning, Ohio State University, 127 Arps Hall, 1945 No. High Street, Columbus, OH 43210, krissek@mps.ohio-state.edu

Cognitive science research indicates that experts in a field often use qualitative representations (diagrams, graphs, pictures) to outline a problem before applying quantitative strategies (equations, formulas), whereas novices tend to use only more abstract quantitative methods. Science education research has shown that using multiple representations (MR) can be more effective for helping students understand science concepts than only textual or verbal representations, although little of that research has considered earth/space science education.

During 2004-05, 16 K-12 teachers participated in a professional development program funded by the Ohio Board of Regents. The program began with a two week-long summer institute, which modeled the use of inquiry learning and all forms of MR while providing instruction in geology. Follow-up meetings supported 3 groups of teachers as they developed and implemented geology lessons. Each group's lesson plan, classroom implementation, and reported uses of MR in other subjects were evaluated for the inclusion of each type of MR, in order to determine the extent to which these teachers applied the full range of MR.

Although all types of MR were used during the summer institute, each group used only 5 or 6 of the 9 types of MR in their lesson plans and instruction. The three most commonly used representations were text (100% use), drawings (80-100% use), and commercially available photographs (80-100% use). These three are distributed across the abstraction continuum of Pozzer and Roth (2003), with text as one of the most abstract forms and photographs and drawings as less abstract. Three additional representation forms – geologic maps (0-33% use), real objects (67-100% use), and digital photographs taken by the teachers – were emphasized during the institute and generally are less abstract, but were used less frequently.

The rate of implementation for each form of representation appears to depend more on the teachers' level of familiarity with that form than on its level of abstraction. Traditionally trained teachers likely have encountered text, commercially available photographs, and diagrams more frequently than other forms of MR, so they probably are most comfortable with these familiar forms. This “comfort level” then influenced their use of various forms of MR.