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. 2
Presentation Time: 1:45 PM

The Emerging Field of Geocognition

KING, Helen1, CLARK, Scott2, LIBARKIN, Julie2 and STOKES, Alison3, (1)Higher Education Consultant, 2202 Yardley Court, Alexandria, VA 22308, (2)Department of Geological Sciences, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824, (3)Experiential Learning Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL), University of Plymouth, 3-15 Endsleigh Place, Drake Circus, Plymouth, PL4 8AA, United Kingdom, helen@helenkingconsultancy.co.uk

This presentation sets out the proposition that ‘Geocognition' be recognized as a sub-discipline of geoscience. Geocognition investigates the mental processes involved in geological observations and interpretations and, by extension, the fundamental understanding of the Earth itself.

Geocognition encompasses research into geoscience education, which traditionally focuses on classroom settings, particularly conceptual and affective changes that occur in students as a function of instruction. In addition, Geocognition has moved outside the classroom and has begun tackling problems of importance to understanding the expert-novice continuum, psychomotor skills acquisition, and application of cognitive psychology principles to understanding how geoscientists perceive and understand Earth phenomena.

The emergence of this new sub-discipline can be evidenced through its growing number of graduate, postdoctoral and tenure-track positions being advertised within the geoscience community, the development of dedicated Geocognition research groups within geoscience departments, and an increasing scope for collaboration on a national and international scale.

Geocognition is becoming as much a part of geoscience as geophysics or any other sub-discipline. Geoscientists make observations of the Earth, filter these observations through complex cognitive functions, and produce interpretations about Earth's history and future. While they spend considerable time documenting and disseminating their observations and interpretations, we need a significantly deeper understanding of how brain function influences our perceptions, and how we process observations. Understanding of cognitive processes within the geosciences – whether by experts or the general public, within classrooms or elsewhere – requires both the rigorous application of cognitive science methodologies and a fundamental and far-reaching understanding of geological phenomena. This understanding of how geoscientists think and practice can then be applied to better support learning of the discipline in formal and informal settings, by students, the public and policy makers.