2015 GSA Annual Meeting in Baltimore, Maryland, USA (1-4 November 2015)

Paper No. 156-3
Presentation Time: 2:05 PM


HANNULA, Kimberly A., Department of Geoscience, Fort Lewis College, 1000 Rim Drive, Durango, CO 81301, hannula_k@fortlewis.edu

Spatial thinking skills are a fundamental part of the competencies expected from geology majors, and field experiences are thought to play a critical role in developing those skills. This study examines the development of penetrative thinking in two courses: a sophomore-level field course, and a junior-level structural geology course.

Two sections of a sophomore field course (33 students) and one section of structural geology (27 students) were given the Geologic Block Cross-sectioning Test (GBCT; Ormand et al., 2014) as pre- and post-tests during Fall 2014. The sophomore course was the first time that the students engaged in geologic mapping, and is a pre-requisite for structural geology. Results of the GBCT showed improvement in both courses. The sophomore field class improved from a pre-test mean of 34% to a post-test mean of 45%; median improvement was 3 out of 16 points. Structural geology students also improved, from a pre-test mean of 47% to a post-test mean of 63%; median improvement was 3 out of 16 points.

Analysis of incorrect answers provides insight into the kinds of difficulties students had with penetrative thinking. The most common incorrect answer on both pre- and post-tests (post-test median 4/16 for sophomores; 3/16 for structure) implied that students were not seeing the blocks as 3-D objects. Although students in both classes improved their overall scores, the median number of most problematic answers only decreased by 1 out of 16 in both courses. Furthermore, a few students (4 sophomores; 7 in structure) selected more problematic answers in the post-test than in the pre-test; the sophomores who got no correct answers also had the largest number of problem responses (up to 94%).

Improvement in the GBCT was nearly equal in the field course and in structural geology. Furthermore, the post-test scores for the sophomore course were statistically similar to the pre-test scores for structural geology (p=0.73). This suggests that the students’ penetrative thinking skills improved in steps through the sequence of courses. On the other hand, some students, particularly in the field course, did not improve their penetrative thinking skills. Early mapping experience appears useful in development of penetrative thinking skills for most students, but some students may need other interventions.