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. 10
Presentation Time: 3:45 PM

Phenomenology and Geoscience Education

FEIG, Anthony D., Department of Geography, Central Michigan University, CMU DOW 278, Mt. Pleasant, MI 48859, anthony.feig@cmich.edu

Phenomenology is a widely used methodology and theoretical approach to social science research questions. Phenomenology describes the essence of a lived experience, as communicated between researchers and participants. In this approach, the notion of an objective or norm-referenced reality is rejected. Data are not subjected to empirical verification. This is because the subjects of study are processes and lived experiences, versus deliverables such as scores or other performance-based objectives. An important tool in phenomenology is that of hermeneutics, which assumes that the researcher is also a participant (an active player) in the research question. In hermeneutic methodology, the understanding and interpretation of a topic go hand-in-hand. Data are generated, not collected, via ethnographic approaches to problems, versus experimental setups or survey instruments.

In geoscience education, norm-referenced (performance-based) research has great utility in assessing the efficacy of classroom methods, prior student knowledge, teaching styles or an instructor's approach to subject matter. However, qualitative social science methods, such as hermeneutic phenomenology, present opportunities to dig deeper into students' and instructors' lived experiences in the teaching and learning process. Such methodologies more directly accommodate the questions of why or how something works, or doesn't work, and how lived experiences are internalized and subsequently translated into the external environment.

This paper will describe the theoretical framework of hermeneutic phenomenology, its application to select geoscience education research questions, and a tutorial on ethnographic data generation and interpretation.