GSA Annual Meeting in Denver, Colorado, USA - 2016

Paper No. 284-9
Presentation Time: 10:35 AM


BODZIN, Alec, Education and Human Services, Lehigh University, A113 Iacocca Hall, 111 Research Dr, Bethlehem, PA 18015, ANASTASIO, David, Earth and Environmental Sciences, Lehigh University, 1 W Packer Ave, Bethlehem, PA 18015, SHARIF, Raghida, Earth and Environmental Sciences, Lehigh University, Bethlehem, PA 18015 and RUTZMOSER, Scott, Library and Technology Services, Lehigh University, 1 W Packer Ave, Bethlehem, PA 18015,

In the Earth and Environmental Sciences, spatial thinking involves abilities and skills that recognize spatial distribution and spatial patterns, identifying shapes, associating and correlating spatially distributed phenomena, imaging maps, and comparing maps and map imagery. Learning with Web GIS can promote spatial ways of thinking and acting, such as understanding change over space versus change over time, recognizing patterns in data, and using cognitive strategies to facilitate problem-solving and decision-making. Web GIS learning activities can be designed to enable learners to analyze rich data sets to understand spatial relationships that are managed in georeferenced data visualizations. We developed a Web GIS plate tectonics simulation as a capstone learning activity in an undergraduate Structural Geology and Tectonics course that integrated geological and geophysical data sets to allow students to dynamically reconstruct ancient plate motions. To assess the effectiveness of the simulation, all students in the course submitted three artifacts that were assessed with a reliable criterion-based rubric that measured student achievement with regards to the accuracy of identifying modern plate boundaries, the placement of isochrones, and the plausibility of continent reconstructions – all tasks involving spatial thinking and reasoning. The students also completed a survey to assess the effectiveness of the Web GIS and its capability to promote geospatial thinking. The student’s preformance was proficient or better on all the deliverables. Artifact submissions were generally accurate and some submissions were outstanding and included detailed reasoning for the continent placements on the ancient map reconstructions. All students were able to accurately mark the modern plate boundaries and the age of the ocean floor. The survey results supported that the students perceived that the Web GIS tectonics simulation helped them think geospatially. Our Web GIS design and embedded capabilities allowed students to advance and confirm their understandings about the tectonics concepts. Student responses indicated that the Web GIS supported their spatial analysis for making inferences about space, geospatial patterns, and geospatial relationships among the data that was visualized in the Web GIS.