GSA Annual Meeting in Indianapolis, Indiana, USA - 2018

Paper No. 30-7
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM-5:30 PM


VAN BOENING, Angela, Department of Agriculture, Geosciences, & Natural Resources, University of Tennessee at Martin, Martin, TN 38238 and RIGGS, Eric M., Department of Geology & Geophysics, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX 77843

Students learning geologic concepts and processes are required to develop their 3- and 4-dimensional spatial skills. Conceptual understanding of such complex relationships and transformations can sometimes be displayed through the use of gestures. Embodied cognition manifests itself in different ways depending on if the person is situated in and interacting with the environment, versus if they are not. In geoscience education, we see this in students’ use of gestures in field settings versus non-field settings. We have observed students using gestures during typical geologic field projects. In this scenario, students are situated within the environment in which the concepts are being learned. When students are able to interact with their surroundings, we observe them using certain kinds of gestures which we classify as First Order gestures. The purpose of First Order gestures is primarily to aid in identification and observation as the student becomes familiar with the outcrop. For example, a student may trace out a feature, indicate dip direction, or constrain a layer using their hands. As students become familiar with their surroundings, they may begin to synthesize their observations and form hypotheses about how the outcrop or area was formed and how it has changed through time. As they make this transition, the kinds of gestures they use also change into what we classify as Second Order gestures. Second Order gestures involve one or more First Order gestures in combination or sequence. Examples include using one’s hands to illustrate features or processes, show a sequence, or construct a more complex spatial and temporal idea. Students who are in non-field settings rely much more heavily on Second Order gestures, as they do not have access to the outcrops or surroundings. Instead, they build their descriptions and explanations from the mental model they have by using gestures to illustrate their ideas. These differences in gesture use can give insight into students’ learning processes. The transition from First to Second Order gestures follows what most educators would consider good scientific reasoning, beginning with observation and transitioning to interpretation. Second Order gestures may be of particular use as they can give insights into the completeness and accuracy of students’ conceptual understanding.