Paper No. 304-2
Presentation Time: 9:15 AM
OBSERVATIONS OF GEOLOGIC BUILDING MATERIALS AT THE INTRODUCTORY LEVEL: PREDICTING AND SCAFFOLDING STUDENT SUCCESS IN DEVELOPING EXPERT-LIKE GEOCOGNITION
From the petrologist identifying a metamorphic rock in the field to the paleontologist determining the nature of an ichnofossil, an expert geoscientist utilizes an array of observational tools and a wealth of past experience in order to make geologic determinations. The process of acquiring geologic knowledge through thought, experience, and the senses, or “geocognition,” is integral to an individual acquiring this level of expertise. How do these experts in the geosciences approach questions that require geocognition? Are there any commonalities between this approach and that of a novice student in a large introductory geology course? Can knowledge of these commonalities be utilized in order to help create a more effective introductory geoscience learning experience for students? This research was based upon analyzing student observations during a collaborative group activity within an introductory geology course at a Midwestern public university. The activity sent introductory geology students on a walking tour of campus in order to make geologic observations of pre-selected building materials. This activity was given during the first two weeks of the course, rendering the student-participants effective novices in the field. Their observations were prompted by probing questions and submitted via a companion website. Several instructors and teaching assistants also took this geologic “scavenger hunt” to serve as expert models for comparison to student observations. The goal of this research was to compare cognitive techniques employed by geoscience experts during geologic observations with those of successful geoscience novices in attempts to qualify any similarities between them. Determining novice geocognitive approaches to geologic observations that lead to positive outcomes in terms of accurately describing what is being observed could ideally be utilized to craft a more-successful introductory geoscience learning experience for the novice learner.