What is Geoscientific Thinking?
- The methods of investigation used by geoscientists, which rely on descriptive studies and modeling over experimental techniques;
- The habits of mind developed by geoscientists, which describe skills and approaches intrinsic to problem solving in the geosciences, such as spatial and temporal reasoning;
- The nature of geoscience, which refers to the theory of knowledge and the values and beliefs behind geoscience: in other words, its philosophical underpinnings.
- In An Outsider Looks at Geoscience: Methods, Content, Pedagogy, and Partnerships, George "Pinky" Nelson, former director of AAAS's Project 2061, discusses the role of K-12 science standards in promoting and teaching the methods and processes of science, and where geoscience fits in (or hasn't fit in).
- Carol Cleland, a philosopher of science, focuses on the nature of geoscience, debunking the myth that descriptive sciences aren't falsifiable in Common Cause Explanation and the Search for the "Smoking Gun".
- Kip Ault, a professor in teacher education, focuses on the importance of time as a unifying concept for understanding the nature of geoscience in Teaching the Geosciences as a Subversive Activity: It's About Time.
- Cathy Manduca and Kim Kastens, both geoscientists who became more involved in geoscience education and cognition, describe a common set of perspectives, approaches, and values that characterizes the study of geosciences in Geoscience and Geoscientists: Uniquely equipped to study the Earth .
Geoscientific thinking and scientific literacy
Geoscientific thinking is a key component of scientific literacy. Aspects of it are highlighted in all of the literacy documents developed for Earth, ocean, atmosphere, climate, and energy sciences, reflecting the perception within all of these communities that understanding how we know what we know is essential knowledge.
Each of the literacy documents includes a big idea or essential principle focused explicitly on how we know what we know, the methods scientists use to collect data about the Earth and its systems, and the nature of our understanding of those systems.
- Earth science literacy Big Idea 1: Earth scientists use repeatable observations and testable ideas to understand and explain our planet.
- Atmospheric science literacy Essential Principle 6: We seek to understand the past, present, and future behavior of Earth's atmosphere through scientific observation and reasoning.
- Climate science literacy Essential Principle 5: Our understanding of the climate system is improved through observations, theoretical studies, and modeling.
- Ocean science literacy Essential Principle 7: The ocean is largely unexplored.
- Energy literacy Essential Principle 5: Energy decisions are influenced by economic, political, environmental, and social factors.