Kim Kastens

Education Development Center

Project Leader, Workshop Participant, Website Contributor

Project Leader

Synthesis of Research on Thinking and Learning in the Geosciences part of Research on Learning:Synthesis Study
This project synthesizes existing knowledge and articulates unanswered questions in critical areas of research on cognition and learning relevant to the Geosciences.

Website Content Contributions

Activities (2)

Concept Test: Mid-Ocean Ridges part of Cutting Edge:Visualization:Examples
Single item multiple choice questions, based on mid-ocean ridge bathymetric data, suitable for using in the middle of a lecture to assess students' learning of basic plate tectonic concepts.

Mentally Visualizing Large Geologic Structures from Field Observations: A Behavioral Study part of Cutting Edge:Structural Geology:Activities
Artificial outcrops made of plywood that together would form a large geologic structure, part of which is eroded or covered by dirt and vegetation, are constructed on campus. One structure is an elongate basin, and ...

Essays (73)

Too Fast to Measure part of Earth and Mind:Posts
To her prior description of three possible relationships between the timing of an Earth process and the timing of making observations of the product or trace of that process, the author adds a fourth possibility: ...

"Some Students Will..." part of Earth and Mind:Posts
Author asks herself and readers whether it is OK to write learning objectives that begin "Some students will...", acknowledging up front that the lesson has subtleties that not every student is going to ...

A more nuanced view of Concept-driven versus Data-driven visualizations part of Earth and Mind:Posts
Previous posts distinguished between data-driven and concept-driven visualizations. This post adds a hybrid category and points out that the issue of overspecificity previously attributed to concept-driven ...

Turning Nature Into Categories part of Earth and Mind:Posts
Humans have developed many clever instruments for making numerical measurements of various aspects of nature, such as air temperature or wind velocity. However, in some circumstances, we take these carefully ...

Older but Wiser part of Earth and Mind:Posts
Kim suggests that disciplines in which "case-based reasoning" is abundant (like geology) may permit practitioners to be productive longer in life, because of the benefits of accumulating knowledge of more ...

Rocks as Models part of Earth and Mind:Posts
The rock samples typically used in teaching high school and intro level college Earth Science have been severed from their formative context. Rather than being presented as recorders of a specific set of earth ...

Bad Diagrams part of Earth and Mind:Posts
Author criticizes two diagrams of the Earth/Sun/Moon system from the August 2011 New York State Regents exam, one for using two different vantage points within the same diagram, the other for showing the Earth ...

Questions we don't think to ask part of Earth and Mind:Posts
Limbs that are ripped off a tree hold their leaves, even as the rest of the parent tree looses its leaves. Kim had never noticed or questioned this might be. When it was pointed out and explained on a recent walk, ...

Faculty Professional Development by means of Case Based Reasoning part of Earth and Mind:Posts
"Case Based Reasoning" is a form of learning in which a person draws from multiple experiences or instances of something, and extracts lessons learned from the similarities across the cases. CBR is common ...

Seeking Kosmos part of Earth and Mind:Posts
Working on a concept map of the historical sciences, Kim stops to enjoy the coincidence that both cosmology and cosmetology come from the same Greek root: "cosmos" or "order."

But should we call them "lies"? part of Earth and Mind:Posts
A reader raises the question of whether intentional simplifications of science concepts by teachers or other adults should be called "lies." Kim considers the question, and concludes that the term is ...

"Telling Lies to Children" part of Earth and Mind:Posts
Fantasy writer Terry Pratchett and colleagues have characterized much of education as "telling lies to children." This post looks at which kinds of lies (aka simplifications) are more or less unacceptable ...

Embedded Energy versus Embedded Cognition part of Earth and Mind:Posts
A human-made object includes both embedded energy (the energy that was used to grow, mine, manufacture, and transport the object) and embedded cognition (the thinking that was used to design the artifact.)

You Map It; You Own It part of Earth and Mind:Posts
Geologists who map a part of the Earth feel a proprietary sense of ownership towards that bit of land. Why?

Data-Driven versus Concept-Driven Animations part of Earth and Mind:Posts
Author proposes that instructional animations can be usefully subdivided into concept-driven (most common) and data-driven (only a few examples available), paralleling the subdivision of static visualizations ...

In which I encounter a "Merchant Of Doubt" part of Earth and Mind:Posts
Author contemplates Dr. William Nierenberg, who was the Director of Scripps Institution of Oceanography when she received her PhD there, but is accused of being a "Merchant of Doubt" on acid rain and ...

Does "form follows function" apply in geosciences? part of Earth and Mind:Posts
The aphorism "form follows function" applies fairly straightforwardly to objects designed by humans and to organismal parts derived by evolution, but its applicability to geoscience objects is less ...

Learning to Learn from Data part of Earth and Mind:Posts
Author sketches out some major elements of a learning progression that would take kids from a middle school level of understanding of how to make meaning from Earth Science data to an upperclass college level. ...

GSA goes Metacognitive part of Earth and Mind:Posts
In announcing its 125 birthday celebration, the Geological Society of America pats itself on the back for "Our science, our societal impact, and our unique thought processes." Kim reflects on ...

Should we call on non-volunteering students? part of Earth and Mind:Posts
Author postulates that calling on non-volunteering students in class, if done carefully, can set up opportunities for the "self-explantion effect" to come into play and foster deeper, longer-lasting ...

Multiple lines of reasoning in support of one claim part of Earth and Mind:Posts
Many students, and many adults, expect science to build a linear chain of reasoning from evidence to claim, in which each step in the chain is rigorously justified by data and theory. However, earth science often ...

Astronomers' Tricks with Light part of Earth and Mind:Posts
The author reflects on the difference in the nature of evidence and reasoning in Astronomy versus Geosciences.

Does Memory Integrate over Time? part of Earth and Mind:Posts
The author asks whether human memory integrates across time rather than remembering the most recently experienced status.

Temporal Reasoning in Geosciences part of Earth and Mind:Posts
Temporal reasoning plays a crucial role in geology, and links geology to other historical sciences including archeology, history, cosmology and developmental psychology. Temporal reasoning draws meaning from ...

Projective Spatial Concept part of Earth and Mind:Posts
Dark irregular patches on the earth, as seen from an airplane window: are they lakes? wooded areas? Use of projective spatial concept allows author to interpret them as cloud shadows.

Collapsing mountains and embodied cognition part of Earth and Mind:Posts
In the Aleutians and Kenai Penninsula of Alaska, Kim observes evidence of mass wasting tearing down volcanic and tectonically-uplifted terrains, reflects on the balance between potential and kinetic energy, and ...

J. Harlen Bretz, Spatial Thinker part of Earth and Mind:Posts
The work of geologist J. Harlan Bretz is reconsidered through the lens of spatial cognition. Bretz interpreted the scablands of Washington and Idaho as the result of gigantic floods let loose when the waters of ...

Seagoing Science Revisited part of Earth and Mind:Posts
The author returns to sea after 17 ashore, and contrasts seagoing science then and now.

Engineering & Technology for All? part of Earth and Mind:Posts
The newly-released "Framework for Science Education" features "Engineering & Technology" as its own domain, standing parallel with Earth & Space Sciences, Physical Sciences, and Life ...

John Diebold: Implementor Extraordinaire part of Earth and Mind:Posts
Marine Geophysicist John Diebold, who died last week, had an unusual ability to fix stuff, make stuff, and get stuff done. The author makes the case that this talent is essential to the geoscience research ...

Kim's First Lesson on Learning Goals part of Earth and Mind:Posts
Author recalls her 9th grade algebra teacher who dared to say, about a state-mandated curriculum fragment, "this is not important to learn," thus opening Kim's eyes to the notion that learning goals ...

New Jersey Increases Coverage of Human/Environment Interactions in Education Standards part of Earth and Mind:Posts
New Jersey has revised their science education standards, and in the process introduced more reasoning from evidence, more use of large data sets, and more human/environment interactions.

The second law of thermodynamics as a unifying theme of geosciences part of Earth and Mind:Posts
Many major earth processes have a net effect of redistributing energy spatially from areas of high concentration towards areas of lower concentration. Examples include the global atmospheric circulation, ...

Visual Meme in Water Cycle Diagrams part of Earth and Mind:Posts
Despite coming from a variety of countries, agencies, and illustrators, diagrams of the water cycle published on the world wide web show surprising similarities, such as showing precipitation only over land and ...

Using Logic Diagrams to Organize Knowledge and Pinpoint Ignorance part of Earth and Mind:Posts
Essay recommends the use of a type of concept map in which all of the links express influence or causality as a means to help both instructor and student organize what they understand and isolate what they ...

Using Logic Diagrams to Organize One's Knowledge and Pinpoint One's Ignorance Concerning Complex Earth Systems part of Cutting Edge:Complex Systems:Workshop 2010:Participant Essays
Kim Kastens (kastens@ldeo.columbia.edu) April 6, 2010 Introduction One of the hardest aspects of learning about complex Earth Systems is organizing fragments of knowledge into some kind of coherent framework. I ...

Reflections from the Front Lines of Interdisciplinarity part of Earth and Mind:Posts
The author's reflections on interdisciplinary collaboration: (1) It's important; (2) It's rewarding; (3) It's hard. Comments prepared for a panel discussion at an NSF meeting of investigators ...

Challenges Inherent in Teaching Geosciences part of Earth and Mind:Posts
Several inherent attributes of ocean, atmosphere and climate sciences contribute to making these disciplines challenging to teach and learn at the K-14 level. These include the large spatial scale of important ...

"Sequestration" part of Earth and Mind:Posts
Often, scientists use words that sound like regular English but mean something different, which is a source of endless confusion. Carbon "sequestration" is a brilliant word choice because the normal ...

Congratulations to "On the Cutting Edge" part of Earth and Mind:Posts
Earth & Mind Co-editors Cathy Manduca, Dave Mogk, and eight colleagues have won the "Science Prize for Online Resources In Education" (SPORE), given by Science magazine, for their work on "On the ...

Haiti as a Metaphor part of Earth and Mind:Posts
Given Haiti's position in the plate tectonic mosaic, a major earthquake was foreseeable and was foreseen; yet the decision-making apparatus did not succeed in paying attention and implementing precautions. The ...

"...Only the Good Ones..." part of Earth and Mind:Posts
Funny story about a kid picking apples turns into a parable about the essence of authentic assessment.

Seismologists Gather for "Discourse Over Materials" part of Earth and Mind:Posts
Seismologists' Friday afternoon "recording reading" gathering is presented as an example of scientists engaging in "discourse over materials." Argumentation (aka "discourse") over ...

Going Negative on "Negative Feedback" part of Earth and Mind:Posts
The terms "negative feedback" and "positive feedback" are used in earth system science for processes that push systems towards equilibrium or towards extremes. But in popular culture and other ...

But so Much is Going on at the Same Time part of Earth and Mind:Posts
One source of difficulty for students working towards understanding the earth as a system is that so many processes are active at the same time. Undergraduate interns in a summer research program tackled this ...

My Catastrophe is Bigger than Your Catastrophe part of Earth and Mind:Posts
Climate change, biodiversity loss, and peak oil are all competing for the attention of politicians, the media, and the public. To some extent the scientific community is being fragmented as individual scientists ...

Milk Comes from the Store; Data Comes From the Internet part of Earth and Mind:Posts
Author takes issue with a website called the "geoSPATIAL Data Acquisition Website" for it's use of the term "data acquisition" to refer to downloading datasets from government websites ...

Where do Data-Driven Visualizations Come From? part of Earth and Mind:Posts
The author diagrams how an important geoscience data-driven visualization, a global map of topography and bathymetry, is created, beginning with collecting data from the Earth with various kinds of sensors, and ...

Universal versus Conditional Truths part of Earth and Mind:Posts
Concept-driven visualizations that portray an aspect of the heterogeneous planet Earth often superimpose "universal truths" (things that are always or almost always true) and "conditional ...

Data-Driven Versus Concept-Driven Visualizations part of Earth and Mind:Posts
Users and creators of scientific visualizations should be attuned to the differences between data-driven visualizations, which are created directly from digital data sets, and concept-driven visualizations, which ...

Assistant Professors are Like Fish part of Earth and Mind:Posts
The author recounts an experience of using systems thinking in an interdisciplinary collaboration with non-geoscientists, while writing a report on the status of women at her university.

Congratulations, Marcia! part of Earth and Mind:Posts
Earth & Mind congratulates Marcia McNutt, recently confirmed by the Senate to be the Director of the U.S. Geological Survey, the first woman to hold that position.

Turning Nature into Numbers part of Earth and Mind:Posts
Quantifying various aspects of nature and the human condition has been one of the main activities/accomplishments of science over the last four centuries. This post discusses what is gained and what is lost when a ...

Triaging the Behindedness part of Earth and Mind:Posts
Advice for young scientists, especially women, on how to keep science from taking over every waking moment of your life, with examples from marine geology.

Why Nature is Quiet and the Built Environment is Noisy part of Earth and Mind:Posts
The built environment is busy because many human-made devices are energy inefficient.

Science Education Should Not be Viewed as the Public Relations Arm of the Research Establishment part of Earth and Mind:Posts
Author takes exception with scientists and science agencies who seem to assume that the main role of science education is to produce (a) voters and tax payers who will favor more funding for science, and (b) ...

Even Darwin Struggled with Dip and Strike part of Earth and Mind:Posts
In a letter that Charles Darwin wrote shortly before his historic voyage describes his efforts to figure out how to use his new clinometer to measure the orientation of dipping layered rocks.

"Boring Volcanic Rocks" part of Earth and Mind:Posts
Author uses label of "Boring Volcanic Rocks" on a stratigraphic diagram to call attention to the backlash against pushing too far too fast in the direction of interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary ...

Geology equals "Wild card" part of Earth and Mind:Posts
The Wall Street Journal has been running a column co-written by their San Francisco bureau chief (Steve Yoder) and his college age son (Isaac Yoder.) The weekly column has chronicled Isaac's college ...

"How did Economists Get it So Wrong?" part of Earth and Mind:Posts
Author makes the case that one reason why economists and business journalists generally did not foresee the current economic crisis coming is because their worldview does not encompass an Earth Systems ...

Was "Voyage of the Mimi" Effective? part of Earth and Mind:Posts
Author recalls her own involvement with the "Voyage of the Mimi" educational TV series, cites positive and negative (anecdotal) evidence of its effectiveness, and invites reader to reflect on the question ...

By Way of Introduction, Part 2 part of Earth and Mind:Posts
Earth & Mind co-editor Kim Kastens explains her reasons for blogging, and her hopes for accelerating thinking and collaboration that can contribute towards solving problems at the interface between humans and ...

"Geologists are comfortable with uncertainty" part of Earth and Mind:Posts
A reader points out the geologists are "comfortable with uncertainty." Author agrees and considers that discomfort...

Extrapolating Beyond the Last Data Point part of Earth and Mind:Posts
Historically, geoscientists have been trained to think about the past, and a bit about the present. Recently, though, society has been asking the geoscience community to answer questions about the future. This ...

More Hypothesis Templates part of Earth and Mind:Posts
The author suggests "hypothesis templates" for the observation that (a) two phenomena co-occur in space, and (b) an object or group of objects have a distinctive shape. "Hypothesis templates" ...

The Meaning of "Meaning": Causes & Consequences part of Earth and Mind:Posts
Geoscience experts excel at making meaning from spatial information, but novices often find it hard to get started generating interpretations from data. The author suggests that it may be helpful to think in terms ...

"...oil is first found ... in the minds of men" part of Earth and Mind:Posts
In 1952, petroleum geologist Wallace Pratt wrote that oil is first found in the mind, and only later by drilling into the Earth. Reflecting on this insight shows modern readers that thinking about Earth and mind is ...

"Hypothesis templates" for extracting meaning from spatial information part of Earth and Mind:Posts
Author suggests that students who are having trouble inferring causative processes from geoscience data might be helped by "hypotheses templates," which provide several alternative partial interpretations ...

"Women Can't be Doctors" part of Earth and Mind:Posts
Author's daughter protests that the author can't be a doctor because she doesn't look doctorlike, and eventually concludes that the author/mom is "a doctor who takes care of the Earth."

Evolution selects for Energy Conservation part of Earth and Mind:Posts
Many fundamental attributes of plants and animals can be understood as an evolutionary adaption that allows the organism to conserve energy, including the streamlined shape of fish, the feathers and hollow bones of ...

A Geoscience Example of Mental Rotation? part of Earth and Mind:Posts
Mental rotation is one of the most widely used tests of spatial ability. Identifying microfossils in a microscope is a geoscience task that may call on mental rotation.

The Energy Budget of Thinking part of Earth and Mind:Posts
We speak of the "cognitive effort" of this or that task, but "cognitive effort" is a term without units. It would be useful to be able to quantify cognitive effort in energy terms, in calories, ...

Giving Earth Science Away part of Earth and Mind:Posts
An eminent psychologist, George Miller, famously told his colleagues that they should "Give psychology away" to those who really need it, which is to say everyone. I suggest we should do the same for ...