GSA Annual Meeting in Seattle, Washington, USA - 2017

Paper No. 137-12
Presentation Time: 4:30 PM


CZAJKA, C. Doug and MCCONNELL, David A., Marine, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27695,

Past research has evaluated how pre-service teachers, high school students, and introductory college students conceptualize geologic or deep time. The ability to think on geologic timescales is regarded as an important skill in the study of geology, yet little work has been done to investigate how student understanding of this concept evolves along a path through the undergraduate experience and beyond. We describe an exploratory, pre-experimental study conducted at a large research university investigating student understanding of various Earth history and geologic time concepts among geology majors. A 21-question pre/post-test was created using seven questions from the Landscape Identification and Formation Test (LIFT), 13 selected response questions from two geoscience concept inventories, and one constructed response question. This instrument was designed to assess concepts related to landscape identification, landscape formation rates, Earth history, the geologic time scale, and relative and absolute dating. The study utilized both cohort and cross-sectional sampling, with pre/post testing of students collected across four semesters in a variety of courses including historical geology, structural geology, geomorphology, and a geology field camp course. Data was also collected from a group of non-majors in an introductory physical geology course to obtain a novice score and from a group of professional geoscientists at the 2016 Geological Society of America meeting to obtain an expert score on the instrument. Additionally, interviews were conducted with a sample of geology majors to gain a deeper understanding of their learning and conceptions related to the concepts assessed. Initial results show that students make the largest gains after taking a historical geology course, and maintain their historical post-test score on both pre- and post-tests during subsequent upper level courses. We will discuss persistent misconceptions among geology majors, how this information can inform teaching of related concepts to both geology majors and introductory non-majors, and implications for future research directions.