2008 Joint Meeting of The Geological Society of America, Soil Science Society of America, American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, Gulf Coast Association of Geological Societies with the Gulf Coast Section of SEPM

Paper No. 7
Presentation Time: 8:00 AM-6:00 PM

College Students' Understanding of Geological Concepts: Earth Structure and Processes

MERLE-JOHNSON, Dominike and ABELL, Sandra, Curriculum and Instruction:Science Education, University of Missouri-Columbia, 303 Townsend Hall, Columbia, MO 65211, dmk99@mizzou.edu

The purpose of this study was to identify how college students understand and connect geological concepts about Earth structure and processes and identify common nonscientific ideas in these areas. Nine students, two graduate teaching assistants in geology, and one professor of geology were interviewed about their understanding of

Earth's interior and structure, volcanoes, and earthquakes, all concepts that are taught in introductory geology courses. Each of the participants made drawings and a concept map to represent how they understood and connected these geologic concepts. Explanations,drawings and concept maps were compared across groups--undergraduates, graduate students, and faculty member--to understand the conceptions and reasoning schemes of

novices and experts. We were able to identify a continuum of conceptual understanding,including non-scientific conceptions. We include a discussion of reasoning patterns that

could prevent students from understanding and connecting geologic concepts like experts in the field do.