GSA Annual Meeting in Seattle, Washington, USA - 2017

Paper No. 205-8
Presentation Time: 10:10 AM


SHIPLEY, Thomas F. and JAEGER, Allison J., Department of Psychology, Temple University, 1701 North 13th Street, Weiss Hall, Philadelphia, PA 19122,

Geoscience diagrams that illustrate 3D relationships can be challenging for students, but important because scientific practice requires comprehending and generating diagrammatic representations. Students’ understanding of 3D diagrams in geology can be improved if given the opportunity to make predictive sketches (Gagnier et al., 2016), which allows them to externalize and spatially correct inaccurate mental models. Research in math education found that working with incorrect examples can be as effective as learning from correct examples (Booth et al., 2013). The current study combined these lines of research and tested which method was more effective for improving 3D geologic block diagram understanding where common spatial errors in mental models can be anticipated. Students were randomly assigned to generate predictive sketches, grade incorrect examples, or copy correct sketches. It was hypothesized that generating sketches or grading incorrect examples would improve diagram understanding compared to copying the correct answer.

A 2x3 repeated-measures ANOVA looking at the effect of activity condition on the Geologic Block Cross-Sectioning task demonstrated that performance was better at posttest than at pre-test, but there was no effect for activity condition,. There was a marginal interaction, and follow-ups revealed no difference between pre and posttest performance in the copying condition, but participants who sketched, or graded, improved from pre to post by half of a standard deviation.

A one-way ANOVA looking at number of sketches completed as a function of activity condition, revealed that participants who graded completed more sketches than participants who sketched or copied, which did not differ. A one-way ANOVA looking at time on task revealed that sketching took more time to complete than grading or copying.

This study replicated work showing sketching can improve block diagram comprehension. A new finding is that identifying and explaining common errors in incorrect examples can be as effective as generating sketches. Further, participants completed more items in less time in the incorrect examples condition. Although showing students errors may seem counter-intuitive, presenting them as known errors is an efficient and effective way to improve 3D diagram comprehension.