2009 Portland GSA Annual Meeting (18-21 October 2009)

Paper No. 5
Presentation Time: 9:05 AM


GOODWIN, Charles, Department of Communications, University of California at Los Angeles, 2300 Rolfe Hall, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1438 and MOGK, D.W., Dept. Earth Sciences, Montana State Univ, Bozeman, MT 59717, cgoodwin@humnet.ucla.edu

Learning in the field has traditionally been one of the fundamental components of the geoscience curriculum. Field experiences have been attributed to having positive impacts on cognitive, affective, metacognitive, mastery of skills and social components of learning geoscience. Insights into how people learn in the field setting are provided by the theory and practice of sister disciplines such as cognitive psychology, the learning sciences and linguistics. The development of geoscience thinking, and of geoscience expertise, encompasses a number of learned behaviors that include: embodiment as a fundamental attribute that facilitates and enhances organization of knowledge by geoscientists through immersion in natural and social environments to acquire the practical knowledge and ways of seeing that sit at the base of geoscience practice; inscriptions that are used to represent Earth processes and relations to enhance understanding, but the first inscription from raw observations of nature to culture (maps, graphs) is the most fundamental and subsequent derivative representations become increasingly distilled, yet distant, from the reality of Nature; and inculcation in the community of practice which includes the accepted practices of the discipline, manner of discourse (language, gesture), selection and use of appropriate tools, and master-novice mentoring which has cognitive, affective and metacognitive components. Training to be a qualified geoscientist requires a long apprenticeship to be able to learn about Nature and from each other. This requires a broad exposure to the natural variations of Earth materials, structures and processes that result from complex physical, chemical, biological and human interactions operating on many scales over the expanse of geologic time. In part, this requires geoscientists to integrate, iterate and rationalize observations of Nature with modern experimental, analytical, theoretical, and modeling approaches to studying the Earth system. Research on how people learn in the field has important implications for what and how we teach in the geoscience curriculum, and a new research initiative is warranted to further document the learning outcomes afforded to students through direct experience of learning in the field.