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. 19
Presentation Time: 8:00 AM-6:00 PM

Teaching Scientific Habits of the Mind

MOGK, D.W., Dept. Earth Sciences, Montana State Univ, Bozeman, MT 59717, mogk@montana.edu

A primary goal of geoscience education, for non-majors, majors, and graduate students should be the acquisition of “scientific habits of the mind”. Among the attributes of scientific habits of the mind are: reasoned use of evidence; acquisition of verifiable data to be used for testing, confirmation and prediction; curiosity, skepticism, and an openness to consider new ideas; integrity, fairness, and the ability to identify and avoid bias; development of computational and estimation skills; the ability to observe, measure, and manipulate; the ability to make connections across disparate lines of evidence and apply knowledge to new situations; communication skills in written, spoken and graphical media; and group work with diverse people with different skills, knowledge, and backgrounds. Instructional practice increasingly employs the methods of inquiry and discovery to develop these habits of the mind. Students should experience first-hand the conduct of science, rather than passively learning facts about science. As with any enterprise, training the scientific mind takes practice, starting with the simplest investigative procedures and increasingly building (scaffolding) learning skills that include observation, description, interpretation, and integration (and corresponding cognitive skills defined in Bloom's taxonomy). To effectively teach scientific habits of the mind, instructors must engage metacognition about the discipline-specific tasks at hand. Class demonstrations and exercises should be designed to articulate not only what is known, but how that knowledge was obtained and why this is useful and important. Initial guided discovery exercises can eventually evolve into more complex, open-ended problem-based learning. Exercises should be designed to "unpack" the instantaneous thought processes used by master geologists to make appropriate observations, understand geologic contexts, and formulate viable interpretations. This allows students to (re)discover fundamental principles and to construct their own knowledge base as constrained by accepted geologic practice and physical reality. Example exercises from mineralogy and petrology will be presented.