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. 3
Presentation Time: 2:00 PM

College Students' Conceptions about the Role of Rivers In Canyon Formation

SEXTON, Julie M., School of Education, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO 80401, pamoika@hotmail.com

It is important to understand students' conceptions of science topics before instructing them on those topics; however, geoscience conceptions are not well understood. My study helps fill this gap by exploring college students' conceptions of several river-related topics. This presentation focuses on only one topic: the role of rivers in canyon formation.

I conducted in-depth interviews with 18 college students and analyzed the students' responses using a modified version of constant comparative analysis. Students' conceptions fell into three categories: incomplete scientific conceptions, alternative conceptions, and incomplete scientific-alternative conceptions.

Students with incomplete scientific conceptions thought that rivers carved canyons. These students had a good understanding of the temporal and spatial scales necessary for a river to carve a canyon. Students with alternative conceptions thought that catastrophic processes like earthquakes form canyons or that canyons do not undergo a formation process (i.e., they have always been there). These students had a poor understanding of temporal and spatial scales. Students with incomplete scientific-alternative conceptions thought that catastrophic processes initiated canyon formation (similar to those students who held alternative conceptions), but also thought that rivers contributed to the process of canyon formation (similar to those students who held incomplete scientific conceptions). These students had a mixed understanding of temporal and spatial scales. These findings add to the growing base of knowledge about geoscience conceptions and have implications for developing geoscience teaching strategies.