GSA Annual Meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, USA - 2019

Paper No. 264-11
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM-6:30 PM


MORA, German, Environmental Studies, Goucher College, Baltimore, MD 21204

There is consensus among educators and policy makers on the importance for students to learn science through engaging, pedagogical techniques that illustrate the scientific process of knowledge generation. However, there is no consensus on how this process looks in practical terms. For instance, the Nature of Science involves many definitions, thus making it difficult to provide a common illustration. Moreover, most textbooks, including geology textbooks, present the scientific process as a stepwise protocol that all scientists presumably use. Reality, however, demonstrates that the historical sciences, such as geology and paleontology, rely on a different protocol in relation to those employed by the experimental sciences (e.g., chemistry, physics). Consequently, the question is how instructors of the historical sciences could help students learn this different, yet complimentary way of scientific knowledge generation. This issue is significant because textbooks – and instruction, in some cases – present a deterministic approach of science that rely heavily on a hypothetico-deductive model. Practicing historical scientists, however, commonly lean on hypothetico-abductive reasoning, a necessity resulting from the paucity of evidence to provide conclusive explanations and the common inability to conduct experiments that could disprove a working hypotheses. In an effort to allow students to explore the Nature of Geological Science more deeply, I developed two contemporary case studies suitable for an environmental geology course. The first case explores whether human activities could be considered a geologic force. The second case evaluates whether hydraulic fracturing could be considered a geologic hazard. I will present the rationale behind these cases as well as their learning goals, implementation, and assessment.