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: 3:00 PM

Synthesizing Research on Thinking and Learning in the Geosciences: An Interdisciplinary Collaborative Project

KASTENS, Kim A., Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University, 61 Route 9W, Palisades, NY 10964-8000, MANDUCA, Cathryn A., Science Education Resource Center, Carleton College, 1 North College St, Northfield, MN 55057, CERVATO, Cinzia, Dept. of Geological and Atmospheric Sciences, Iowa State Univ, 253 Science I, Ames, IA 50011, FRODEMAN, Robert, Philosophy, Univ of North Texas, 225 EESAT, P.O. Box 310920, Denton, TX 76203, GOODWIN, Charles, Department of Applied Linguistics, University of California at Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA 90095, LIBEN, Lynn S., Department of Psychology, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802, MOGK, David W., Dept. of Earth Sciences, Montana State University, Bozeman, MT 59717, SPANGLER, Timothy C., University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, CO 80301, STILLINGS, Neil, School of Cognitive Sciences, Hampshire College, Amherst, MA 01002-3359 and TITUS, Sarah, Department of Geology, Carleton College, Northfield, MN 55057, kastens@ldeo.columbia.edu

How does the human mind encompass something as big, as old, and as complex as the Earth system? How do we stretch our minds from the familiar time intervals within a human lifespan to the millions of years of geological history? How do we think about a system that has multiple intertwined causality chains, interacting through multiple feedback loops? How do we build mental models of processes we cannot see, and cannot manipulate experimentally, such as motions of air, heat and moisture over the surface of the Earth? How do we learn to perceive and disaggregate the superimposed traces of multiple earth processes that have all impacted one place? How do individuals and societies incorporate understanding of earth systems into decision-making? In other words, how do Geoscientists think about the Earth, and how can Geoscience students learn this way of thinking?

Research that bears on these questions is found in fields as disparate as philosophy, psychology, physics education and social science. With funding from the "Synthesis" track of NSF's Research on Education program, we are conducting a year-long effort to gather and distill existing knowledge, and articulate unanswered questions, about how human beings think and learn about our planet. Four central themes include: (a) geological time and related temporal concepts, (b) complex systems of the Earth and environment, (c) spatial thinking in geosciences and (d) field-base learning. Our work has been accomplished through a scoping meeting, weekly virtual Journal Club sessions, and a summer writing retreat, all involving mixtures of geoscientists and cognitive scientists. Questions, readings from the Journal Club, collections of relevant resources from science education and cognitive science research, and updates on the state of the synthesis are online at http://serc.carleton.edu/research_on_learning/synthesis/. Our presentation will highlight the results of the synthesis, and we invite feedback from colleagues.