GSA Annual Meeting in Denver, Colorado, USA - 2016

Paper No. 306-11
Presentation Time: 4:45 PM


VAN BOENING, Angela, Department of Geology and Geophysics, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX 77840 and RIGGS, Eric M., College of Geosciences, Texas A&M University, Room 202, Eller O&M Building, MS 3148 TAMU, College Station, TX 77843,

Students commonly use gestures when describing geologic processes and features. These gestures have been observed both in classroom and in field settings. Previously, we categorized five main “styles” (hand forms) of gestures that are most commonly used by students when discussing geologic concepts. We observed that each of these styles may be used in a variety of ways to convey geological information and meaning. In this study, we focus on the various ways in which we have observed these gesture styles being used (i.e. their “functions”).

125 upper-level geology students participated in this study over the course of 3 summers at a well-established geology field camp. Students were recorded in field settings in order to capture candid and spontaneous use of gestures as they worked through assignments and projects common to most geologic field camps (e.g. stratigraphy, structural geology, mapping, etc.). Additionally, some students participated in one-on-one interviews where they were asked to discuss and describe the concepts they were learning in the field. We find that the styles of gestures used both in and out of the field setting are the same.

It is from this data that we also describe and categorize the various functions of each gesture style. Gesture styles include: points, domains, flat-hands, frames, and forms. These styles may then be used to convey different meanings dependent upon their use. For example, a pointing gesture may be used to indicate direction, highlight or trace out a feature, or mimic a linear feature. We have categorized these uses into several gesture functions. These function categories include: indicating, tracing, constraining, showing location, constructing, illustrating. It is worth noting that while the styles used both in and out of the field setting are the same, the frequency in which certain gestures are used and the functions in which they serve can be quite different.

Additionally, it is important to note that in nearly every instance, gesture alone is not sufficient in fully deciphering meaning. Therefore, a more in-depth comparison of gesture and language may be needed to fully appreciate students’ use of gesture and the relation to understanding of geologic concepts.