2006 Philadelphia Annual Meeting (2225 October 2006)
Paper No. 189-13
Presentation Time: 11:15 AM-11:30 AM

HOW CAN A 2,300-YEAR-OLD GEOLOGY BOOK INITIATE CONCEPTUAL CHANGE? AN EXPLORATORY NATIONWIDE STUDY OF EARTH SCIENCE TEACHERS' IDEAS FOR USING EXCERPTS OF THEOPHRASTUS' TREATISE ON STONES

WANDERSEE, James H., Educational Theory, Policy, and Practice, Louisiana State University, Room 223 F, Peabody Hall, Baton Rouge, LA 70803, jwander@lsu.edu and CLARY, Renee M., Geosciences, Mississippi State University, P.O. Box 5448, Mississippi State, MS 39762

GSA's 2005 position statement on teaching asserts: "Earth science literacy is of critical importance to our nation" (Kelley & Burks). Indeed, the National Science Education Standards (NRC, 1996) endorse using the history of science to help teach scientific inquiry, the nature of science, and science. Paradoxically, we have observed that earth science teachers are often unaware of the conceptual change potential and motivational value of authentic geohistorical materials. Teachers' prior scientific training often encourages them to overvalue the latest geoscience research findings, while judging the history of geologic thought to be nonessential.

Our study employed a purposive nationwide sample of practicing earth science teachers (N = 93) pursuing an online Master of Science degree with an emphasis in educational applications within a research university's geosciences department. To each, we administered our Exploring the Thoughts of an Early Geologist questionnaire, a 7-page instrument with both free-response and forced-choice items about selected passages drawn from the treatise On Stones, written by Theophrastus of Eresus (Greek, 372287 BCE). This ancient mineralogical manuscript was considered an authoritative geoscience text for millennia. We wanted to investigate how teachers who had never read Theophrastus' words before would respond to excerpts about the Earth's materials and forces--in the context of being asked to propose possible applications of them for teaching contemporary earth science topics to their own students.

"In the geosciences, faculty are just beginning to become aware of the importance of conceptual change in instruction" (Libarkin & Anderson, 2005). We found that original geohistorical texts, which are records of conceptual change, can initiate conceptual change-oriented teaching plans by faculty. About two-thirds of teachers we studied experienced epiphanies about how they could autonomously apply some of Theophrastus' ideas for teaching important geological ideas or the nature of geologic thought. About one-third was reluctant to incorporate geohistorical materials into their teaching due to concerns about lack of historical background and a presumed danger of seeding ancient misconceptions.

2006 Philadelphia Annual Meeting (2225 October 2006)
General Information for this Meeting
Session No. 189
Translating Earth: Conceptions Research in Earth Science Education
Pennsylvania Convention Center: 108 B
8:00 AM-12:00 PM, Wednesday, 25 October 2006

Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, Vol. 38, No. 7, p. 459

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