2011 GSA Annual Meeting in Minneapolis (912 October 2011)
Paper No. 97-8
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM-6:00 PM


KIRKBY, Kent, Department of Earth Sciences, University of Minnesota, 310 Pillsbury Drive SE, Minneapolis, MN 55455-0219, kirkby@umn.edu

A fundamental discrepancy exists between how geoscientists teach sample identification and how they do it themselves. Instructors typically teach identification as a step-by-step checking of multiple properties to identify an unknown sample. In reality, experienced geoscientists rely on pattern recognition for most identification. They recognize samples by sight and only occasionally check key properties to distinguish between alternatives culled down by pattern recognition.

Until recently, pattern recognition only came with experience. Consequently, beginning students learned to identify samples by properties until they accumulated enough familiarity with earth materials to use pattern recognition. For many students this is a slow painful process that served as an inadvertent gatekeeper to earth science fields. Sample identification, with all its boring connotations, became synonymous with earth science and undoubtedly discouraged many promising students from considering the discipline.

Now, scanning technologies, such as linear bar codes, 2D barcodes, and radio-frequency identification (RFID), provide ways to circumvent this hurdle, allowing students to practice pattern recognition even before they begin to check properties. More importantly, scanning systems allow students to select a physical sample and link it to web page content about its origin and geologic setting, or its social, historical and economic relevance. With scanning systems, students are not dependent on instructors for clarification or confirmation. Giving students control over, and responsibility for, their learning is a powerful pedagogical tool. On pre-instruction and post-instruction tests, providing content about samples' social and economic uses increased students’ ability to identify samples even though they spent less class time on identification. Using scanning technologies to practice pattern recognition further improved students’ performance. These methods represent the first transformative change in how geoscientists have taught introductory sample identification since the 1800’s.

2011 GSA Annual Meeting in Minneapolis (912 October 2011)
General Information for this Meeting
Session No. 97--Booth# 60
Geoscience Education (Posters) II
Minneapolis Convention Center: Hall C
9:00 AM-6:00 PM, Monday, 10 October 2011

Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, Vol. 43, No. 5, p. 254

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