COMPLEMENTARY (NOT COMPARATIVE) RESEARCH ON GEOSCIENCE TEACHING AND LEARNING IN VIRTUAL AND IN-SITU FIELD ENVIRONMENTS
The effectiveness of iVFTs in teaching both general and locality-specific geological knowledge and skills is not yet well defined, let alone rigorously tested. Virtual and in-situ modalities differ enough that a straightforward comparison of the two is essentially meaningless. Instead, we posit that each modality has unique strengths and weaknesses with regard to such factors as embodied cognition, universal access, and novelty space; and complementary analyses of each will inform better teaching overall. We have situated our initial complementary study at Grand Canyon, where we have created both an in-situ informal learning environment (the Trail of Time) and an iVFT that have similar learning objectives. Our mixed-methods research protocol comprises observation and analysis of student interactions with a component common to both modalities (the Great Unconformity and its significance), coupled with pre-post testing on the common learning objectives. Our future objective is a validated protocol for authentic assessment of student learning and experience in the iVFT environment.