GSA Annual Meeting in Indianapolis, Indiana, USA - 2018

Paper No. 99-1
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM-6:30 PM


PETCOVIC, Heather L., Geological and Environmental Sciences and the Mallinson Institute for Science Education, Western Michigan University, 1903 West Michigan Ave, Kalamazoo, MI 49008, MCNEAL, Peggy M., Department of Physics, Astronomy and Geosciences, Towson University, 8000 York Road, Towson, MI 21252, NYARKO, Samuel Cornelius, Mallinson Institute for Science Education, Western Michigan University, 1903 West Michigan Ave, Kalamazoo, MI 49008-5444 and DOORLAG, Megan, Geological and Environmental Sciences, Western Michigan University, 1903 West Michigan Ave, Kalamazoo, MI 49008-5241

Fieldwork is a key component of gaining expertise in geology, and learning bedrock mapping is a cornerstone of field instruction. As part of a larger naturalistic study of mapping strategies, 67 undergraduate through professional geoscientists were asked to reflect on experiences that promoted their personal competence and confidence in mapping. During semi-structured interviews, participants replied to the question, “How did you learn to make geologic maps?”

Interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed, and coded using four primary themes. Three themes aligned with Mogk and Goodwin’s (2012) domains identified as important to learning in field settings: embodiment, use of inscriptions, and initiation into the community of practice. A fourth theme—instruction—emerged from the data analysis. Embodiment captured participant reflections asserting the importance of immersion in the field and the integration of mind, body and environment for synthesis of geologic concepts. Participants also highlighted the importance of inscribing data on imagery and maps, learning to use tools to record measurements, and taking field notes to aid in recording, interpreting and depicting the landscape. Learning in a community of practice was recognized as important to fostering expertise. Participants highlighted peer group support, apprenticeships, contributing to the discipline through independent work, and teaching. Finally, a theme about the nature of mapping instruction captured two approaches: (1) structured instruction via scaffolded learning, beginning with course work followed by mapping activities that progress in difficulty as instructors provide guidance and feedback to facilitate learning, and (2) ill-structured instruction in which students have minimal field instruction before they “sink or swim.” Participants also recognized the importance of taking ownership for learning, and learning from mistakes. In particular, struggling through the process was sometimes recognized as an important part of skill acquisition.

This study gives voice to the experiences of a sample of geoscientists as they reflect on how they became competent in geologic mapping. Describing the range of instructional and community experiences can add to our knowledge of the role of fieldwork in developing geologic expertise.

  • Mapping GSA2018 Poster.pdf (1.6 MB)