Paper No. 3
Presentation Time: 8:45 AM


SUMRALL, Jeanne Lambert, Department of Geography and Geology, Sam Houston State University, Lee Drain Building Suite 332, Huntsville, TX 77341 and CLARY, Renee M., Geosciences, Mississippi State University, P.O. Box 1705, Mississippi State, MS 39762,

An individual’s sense of place has been linked to a variety of attributes including behavioral changes, pro-environmental thoughts and intentions, cognition, emotional involvement, and interest modifiers. All of these attributes can influence a student’s understanding of geoscience concepts. As predicted by the constructivist learning theory, an individual’s primary geological and meteorological senses of place may be important elements in his/her best learning strategies. Although many traditional classrooms are composed of students with a similar sense of place (e.g., growing up in the same general area), online classrooms are different, in that students can be geographically widespread and have dissimilar backgrounds. This may pose additional challenges for online instructors that may not be as pronounced in a traditional classroom setting. For instance, an individual with a strong sense of place for the Gulf Coast may have a greater understanding of hurricanes than someone from the upper Midwest, but that same individual may have no understanding of blizzards. An understanding of geographic differences and students’ senses of place may help an online instructor to better establish a platform upon which to construct more effective learning modules.

Our research investigates the role in geographic affiliation and sense of place in an online geoscience Master’s program that includes both geology and meteorology courses. An existing Geologic Sense of Place (GSP) writing template (Clary and Wandersee, 2006) was utilized to assess incoming students’ geological sense of place, but a Meteorological Sense of Place (MSP) writing template did not exist. Therefore, we developed the MSP based upon the general organization and probing questions of the GSP, with content development informed by meteorologists associated with the online program. In addition to the GSP and MSP, content surveys in both geology and meteorology were developed to probe students’ incoming knowledge. We report on the development of the MSP, as well as the data collected thus far in the research program. Early data indicate that individual differences exist in an online classroom; these differences and the resulting student performance are being investigated throughout students’ program of study.