GSA Annual Meeting in Seattle, Washington, USA - 2017

Paper No. 205-3
Presentation Time: 8:40 AM


LADUE, Nicole, Geology and Environmental Geosciences, Northern Illinois University, 302 Davis Hall, Normal Road, DeKalb, IL 60115 and SHIPLEY, Thomas F., Department of Psychology, Temple University, 1701 North 13th Street, Weiss Hall, Philadelphia, PA 19122,

Classroom response systems (CRS), or clickers, are used in many undergraduate introductory science classes to increase student engagement and learning. CRS also provide an opportunity to collect data on students’ conceptions of geologic processes. Most research on students’ conceptions uses qualitative methods, such as interviews, drawings, and sorting tasks. Research on classroom pedagogy often documents change using multiple-choice concept inventories. Smart device technology and the shift of CRS systems to web-based platforms has enabled most popular content management companies to offer click-on-diagram (COD) questions as a response option format. COD questions are open-ended, providing rich insight into students’ understanding of diagrams and spatial thinking, yet more efficient than many qualitative approaches. This is a tremendous opportunity for the geosciences, which depend on diagrams to teach students about structures and processes that occur at scales greater than can be observed directly. In this proof-of-concept study, we developed COD questions that targeted a collection of well-documented and novel geologic misconceptions to evaluate the usefulness of COD questions as a tool for conceptions research. The COD questions were implemented in an introductory geology course for non-majors and administered prior to and directly after instruction, as well as at the end of the course. Students’ responses to COD questions about the Earth’s internal structure and geologic time confirmed misconceptions that are documented in the literature. COD questions about erosion to base level and hot spots identified previously undocumented conceptual challenges related to spatial processes. Plotting the COD data using Geographic Information Systems (GIS) software directly revealed the impact of instruction on the targeted conceptions – outcomes depended on the intensity of the instructional intervention and the complexity of the problem. The findings suggest that COD questions are an efficient way to probe for and document students’ developing spatial conceptions of geologic structures and processes. Although the main focus of this study was to evaluate the usefulness of COD questions for research purposes, applications to classroom practice will be discussed.