TEACHING AT THE INTERSECTION OF COGNITIVE SCIENCE AND THE HISTORY OF GEOLOGY: USING CONTROVERSY TO DESIGN INSTRUCTION AROUND THE THEORY OF PLATE TECTONICS
This presentation will first outline a process of curriculum development that starts with delineation of a primary concept to be taught, in this case the current understanding of earth dynamics as it pertains to the origin of earthquakes. Secondary and tertiary concepts are derived from the primary concept and are the focus of instructional objectives. Historical cases utilizing narratives, historic texts, and historically contextualized inquiry activities are then used as a back drop to achieve these instructional objectives.
The second objective of the presentation will be to describe how to implement such instruction. Attention is paid to student model building trajectory, and instruction is executed to encourage student development and critique of their own model of earth dynamics through the use of inquiry activities and historical data sets. Students are also encouraged to critique other student models as well as historic models (the objects of controversy) in a manner of model competition. The most important part of the implementation is for the instructor to allow students to travel along a path of increasing understanding with Reid, Dana, Seuss, Chamberlin, Wegener, du Toit, Schuchert, Tharp, Hess, Vine and others and not to look back at them from our present understanding as the ones who got it wrong or almost got it right.
I propose, based on the cognitive science literature, that learning in this manner will give students a stronger and more complete understanding of the content material, reinforce critical thinking skills and give a more accurate picture of the nature of science than what one gets from lecture and text alone.