2014 GSA Annual Meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia (19–22 October 2014)

Paper No. 276-11
Presentation Time: 10:15 AM


GARNIER, Bridget, SERC, 1 N College Street, Northfield, MN 55057, ORMAND, Carol J., Science Education Resource Center, Carleton College, 1 North College Street, Northfield, MN 55057, CHANG, Maria, 2133 Sheridan Road, Room 3.207, Evanston, IL 60208, MATLEN, Bryan, Psychology, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL 60208, TIKOFF, Basil, Department of Geoscience, University of Wisconsin, 1215 W Dayton St, Madison, WI 53706, SHIPLEY, Thomas F., Department of Psychology, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA 19122 and FORBUS, Kenneth D., Qualitative Reasoning Group, Northwestern University, 2133 Sheridan Road, Evanston, IL 60201

Many of the concepts in introductory geoscience courses are spatially complex. Students come to these courses with a wide range of spatial thinking skills, but spatial training is rarely a component of the courses. Sketching is one of the most effective strategies to improve spatial thinking, but it is difficult to implement in large introductory courses. Instructors do not have the time to grade hundreds of sketches and students receive delayed feedback, if any. As a group of geoscientists, computer programmers, and cognitive psychologists, we have developed a series of geoscience worksheets that utilize a sketch-understanding program with a built-in virtual tutor (CogSketch). We have developed 26 geoscience worksheets that cover 13 topics commonly taught in introductory geoscience. The worksheets focus on spatial skills essential to understanding geoscience: disembedding, scaling, dynamic processes, and penetrative thinking. Each worksheet focuses on a difficult concept and utilizes at least one spatial skill to understand the concept (e.g. using scaling to understand the layers of the Earth).

In spring, 2014, we conducted a study in the Geoscience 100 course at UW-Madison, testing the effectiveness of Cogsketch worksheets versus paper worksheets for helping students understand spatial concepts in geoscience. Students either completed CogSketch worksheets all semester or nearly identical paper worksheets. Pre-tests, immediate post-tests, and delayed post-tests were used to measure learning gains attributed to worksheet use. We found three worksheets where CogSketch users improved significantly more than students using paper worksheets, one worksheet where the paper group improved significantly more than CogSketch users, and ten worksheets where there was no significant difference in learning. This study shows that CogSketch worksheets can be used on a large scale to implement frequent sketching, help students understand difficult geological concepts, improve spatial thinking, supply instant and helpful feedback to students, and reduce grading time for instructors.