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

Paper No. 14
Presentation Time: 11:30 AM


TURNER, Sheldon P., Geocognition Research Laboratory, 206 Natural Science Building, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824, LIBARKIN, Julie C., Department of Geological Sciences, Division of Science and Mathematics Education, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48824, HAMBRICK, D. Zachary, Department of Psychology, Michigan State University, 320 Psychology Building, East Lansing, MI 48824 and PETCOVIC, Heather L., Department of Geosciences and The Mallinson Institute for Science Education, Western Michigan University, 1903 W Michigan Ave, Kalamazoo, MI 49008-5241, turne184@msu.edu

The geoscience community holds many assumptions about the nature of expertise as it relates to experience, spatial ability, and knowledge. These assumptions, which are built into current educational models, should undergo the same scientific scrutiny as the geologic concepts they are used to teach. Unlike the traditional geoscience disciplines such as petrology and paleontology, the blooming field of geocognition still lacks standardized instruments for research. Well-known and widespread software packages were adapted from other disciplines to tackle this problem of standardization. In addition, new tools need to be developed that provide reliable and valid mechanisms for capturing and analyzing cognitive processes related to Earth understanding. Microsoft Office and a Tablet PC are the platform for data collection, and ESRI’s ArcGIS provides the tools needed for analysis. With these tools, we can test a subject’s experience, content knowledge, visualization ability, working memory capacity, and geologic spatial ability in about an hour. Microsoft PowerPoint quickly captures and stores a subject’s answers to psychometric tests in addition to recording sketches made during a recall task. Geographical Information Systems then allow us to precisely evaluate subject sketches based on the original recall task, as well as compare sketches across subjects. A simple add-on for PowerPoint through TechSmith’s Camtasia Studio (a common video editing software package) also records a video of the drawing process, providing precise information about hesitations and decisions made by subjects. Analyses of these drawings and videos in GIS provide initial data needed to build a scientific model of “geoscientific expertise.” By using the same software that expert geoscientists use to perform spatial analysis of geological settings, we can start to understand those same experts’ own spatial abilities within their discipline. These tools offer geocognition researchers a mobile lab station, with the ability to take the experiments to the subjects, whether in an office, a lab, or the field.