- Geoscience requires learning about complex causal processes that occur over large ranges of space and time. How do geoscientists represent their knowledge of geologic processes? We examined this question using two distinct methods. Participants with differing levels of geoscience experience were presented with a series of geoscience-related and unrelated diagrams, and asked to (a) provide written descriptions of the diagrams, and (b) sketch the diagrams using the CogSketch software (Forbus et al., 2008). CogSketch records both the spatial-relational structure of the sketches and the process through which sketches were constructed, affording an examination of the convergence and uniqueness of participants’ written descriptions and their sketches. If geoscience experience leads to the development of causal mental models for geological processes, then more experienced students’ descriptions and sketches should reflect the diagrams’ causal sequence. We discuss our results with respect to CogSketch as a general measure of causal knowledge.
- Geoscience education involves learning to identify geological structures in real-world images. This learning may be facilitated by viewing similar but contrasting schematic images, where one image contains the structure and the other does not (Jee et al., 2010). Highly similar items are easier to align structurally, thereby highlighting their common relational structure and any alignable differences (readily comparable but differing features; e.g., Gentner et al., 2007). The present research explored the basis of this learning benefit, and whether learning can be further enhanced by viewing realistic, contrasting images in addition to schematic, contrasting images. The focus of the study was the geological structure of a fault -- a fracture in rock along which there has been displacement. Participants read a brief instructional text about faults that included either (1) a single block diagram of a fault, (2) a pair of similar, contrasting block diagrams, one with a fault an one with a fracture, or (3) a pair of similar, contrasting block diagrams and a pair of contrasting realistic diagrams. Following the instructions, the participants completed a fault identification task, in which they saw a series of photos. On each trial the participant had to respond whether each photo contained a fault, and, if so, where the fault was located. Participants who saw only a single block diagram performed poorly, due mainly to their relatively high mean rate of false alarms. This suggests that viewing a pair of contrasting diagrams served to clarify the important distinction between the appearance of faults and fractures. Also, participants who saw both the block diagrams and realistic diagrams tended to perform the best. This suggests that viewing realistic images supported learning of features that were relevant to fault identification but are not present in schematic diagrams.
Drawing on Experience: Use of Sketching to Evaluate Knowledge
of Spatial Scientific Concepts -- full paper
- How does learning affect the structure of domain knowledge? This question is difficult to address in domains such as geoscience, where spatial knowledge is paramount. We explore a new platform, called CogSketch, for collecting and analyzing participants’ sketches as a means of discerning their spatial knowledge. Participants with differing levels of experience in the geosciences produced sketches of geologic structures and processes on a tablet computer running CogSketch software. This allowed for the analysis of not only the spatial-relational structure of the sketches, but also the process through which the sketches were constructed.
- Geoscience visualizations are commonplace; they appear in television news programs, classroom lectures, conference presentations, and internet hypermedia. But to what degree do individuals who view such visualizations actually learn from them, and if so, why? As visualizations become more commonplace in school, laboratory, and entertainment settings, there has been a concurrent interest in considering the effectiveness of such presentations. How can we build effective collaborations that address pedagogical questions in the earth sciences while also informing theories about the cognitive processes that underlie visualization experiences? In this chapter, we contend that only through directed, collaborative projects between earth scientists and cognitive scientists will significant advances in visualization research take place. We describe two specific models of such collaboration, the advisory model and the reciprocal model, and argue that a reciprocal model presents a more effective framework for addressing important questions about the nature of visualization experiences. Such a model will inform both the design of effective visualizations for teaching complex geoscience topics, as well as provide insight into the processes that underlie learning from visualizations.
Remote online laboratories enable students to conduct scientific investigations using real experimental equipment. However, scaling up remote labs may require significant costs in purchasing and maintaining expensive equipment compared to scaling simulated labs. While these costs are a consequence of using physical equipment, we argue that there are unique educational advantages to remote labs. This paper presents the results of a preliminary study of student perceptions of a remote lab in comparison to an identical lab experience with simulated data. The findings reveal several intriguing themes that highlight the pedagogical value of remote laboratories. In addition, we provide recommendations for the design and pedagogy of online laboratory experiences based on our findings.
- Geoscience instructors and textbooks rely on analogy for teaching students a wide range of content, from the most basic concepts to highly complicated systems. The goal of this paper is to connect educational and cognitive science research on analogical thinking with issues of geoscience instruction. Analogies convey that the same basic relationships hold in two different examples. In cognitive science, analogical comparison is understood as the process by which a person processes an analogy. We use a cognitive framework for analogy to discuss what makes an effective analogy, the various forms of analogical comparison used in instruction, and the ways that analogical thinking can be supported. Challenges and limitations in using analogy are also discussed, along with suggestions about how these limitations can be addressed to better guide instruction. We end with recommendations about the use of analogy for instruction, and for future research on analogy as it relates to geoscience learning.