Paper No. 242-12
Presentation Time: 4:30 PM
UNDERSTANDING STUDENTS' IDEAS ABOUT PLATE TECTONICS: A LEARNING PROGRESSIONS APPROACH
This paper presents a learning progression for Plate Tectonics. Based on a total of 194 conceptual interviews with students from 5th grade to undergraduates, the progression organizes students’ understandings about Plate Tectonics along vertical pathways. Learning progression include correct, partial, hybrid, initial and advanced ideas. Unlike other methods for visualizing or conceptualizing student understanding, such as the AAAS Benchmark maps, learning progressions are empirically grounded in data from students and include students’ ideas that are not scientifically accurate. The purpose of this approach to representing student learning is it allows teachers/instructors to be responsive to how students ideas actually develop, which is not simply from one right idea to the next right idea. Student learning is complex and messy, and learning progressions attempts to represent that complexity in order to provide guidance for teaching, curricular development and assessment. Our progression allows readers to visualize how student understanding develops from novice to expert in three domains (progress variables): Plate Movement, Plate Dynamics, and Intra-Plate Interactions. In addition to reporting the learning progression in detail, we use the learning progression framework to report changes in students’ understanding, as measured by analysis of pre/post interviews with 7th and 8th grade students who recently completed an Earth Science unit focused on understanding Plate Tectonics.