• Harvey Thorleifson, Chair
    Minnesota Geological Survey
  • Carrie Jennings, Vice Chair
    Minnesota Geological Survey
  • David Bush, Technical Program Chair
    University of West Georgia
  • Jim Miller, Field Trip Chair
    University of Minnesota Duluth
  • Curtis M. Hudak, Sponsorship Chair
    Foth Infrastructure & Environment, LLC


Paper No. 14
Presentation Time: 12:15 PM


SAVARESE, Michael, Marine & Ecological Sciences, Florida Gulf Coast University, 10501 FGCU Blvd South, Fort Myers, FL 33965-6565 and SCHMIDT, Diane, College of Education, Florida Gulf Coast University, 10501 FGCU Blvd South, Ft. Myers, FL 33965,

The Conceptual Change Model (CCM) provides a structure to learning experiences that deliberately targets misconceptions. The teaching of such paleontological topics as evolution, phylogenetics, and functional morphology, three concept-rich units that are components of any paleontology course, is confounded by engrained misunderstandings. The inquiry-based CCM, based upon the work of Posner, Strike, Hewson, and Gertzog (1982), was formalized by Stepans (1994) to support current theories about how the brain functions. It builds upon the National Research Council’s standards for inquiry and follows their recommendations for teaching science (NRC 2000). The CCM instructional process allows students to: identify their own preconceptions, recognize the wide variety of beliefs held by classmates, confront their misconceptions, revise and reconstruct their ideas, apply their knowledge, and finally ask new questions for further study and growth. Implementation of the model provides a socially safe and challenging environment that engages students in ways not possible in traditional lecture settings (Schmidt et al. 2006).

The CCM is employed in Florida Gulf Coast University’s upper division course in paleontology. This principles of paleontology course supports our Marine Science, Environmental Studies, and Biology undergraduate programs. At the introduction of each topical unit, a short inquiry-based exercise is implemented both to reveal preconceptions carried by the students and to demonstrate the inconsistencies and problems with those conceptions. This then opens opportunity to cleanly present the correct rendition of the concept. For example, before functional morphology each group of students is given a mysterious fossil and asked to generate a life mode, behavior, or physiological function. Story-telling ensues and a group will generate numerous interpretations. Students quickly realize that inferring function from form requires a rigorous scientific process. Before evolution is introduced, groups are provided with cartoons that illustrate misconceptions of evolutionary process (e.g., progressive and linear evolution or Lamarkian evolution). Students explain these using their preconceptions, and the problems associated with those explanations are discussed.

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