September 2010 Journal of Geoscience Education

Volume 58, Number 4

Editorial: The Geosciences Gap in K-12 Education
Karen S. McNeal, Mississippi State University
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Commentary: The [Geo]Scientific Method; hypthesis testing and geoscience proposal writing for students
Michelle J. Markley, Mount Holyoke College
Most undergraduate-level geoscience texts offer a paltry introduction to the nuanced approach to hypothesis testing that geoscientists use when conducting research and writing proposals. Fortunately, there are a handful of excellent papers that are accessible to geoscience undergraduates. Two historical papers by the eminent American geologists G. K. Gilbert and T. C. Chamberlin (Gilbert, 1886; Chamberlin, 1897) were the first to fully articulate and explore the method of multiple working hypotheses. Both papers still make for inspirational reading. A long essay on the scientific method by Johnson (1933) presents both a recipe for rigorous scientific thinking and a traditional but detailed articulation of linear hypothesis testing using geologic examples. More recently, papers by Frodeman (1995) about the fundamentally non-linear nature of interpretation and reasoning in the geosciences and Cleland (2001) about a "smoking gun" approach to validating hypotheses are helpful articulations of the geoscientific method, i.e. a shared understanding of how geoscientists articulate, frame, and tackle research questions.
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Laboratory Earth: A Model of Online K-12 Teacher Coursework
David C. Gosselin, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Julie Thomas, Oklahoma State University
Adrienne Redmond, Oklahoma State University
Cindy Larson-Miller, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Sara Yendra, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Ronald J. Bonnstetter, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Timothy F. Slater, University of Wyoming
Laboratory Earth, a series of three NASA-Sponsored, on-line graduate courses for K-8 teachers, was designed to meet a variety of learning styles and appeal to teachers‟ motivation to learn the content and improve their teaching. This is especially important to teachers as they seek to demonstrate "highly qualified" status to meet No Child Left Behind standards. These graduate-level courses consist of four modules of two to four lessons each. Pre- and post-course surveys indicated significant increases in teachers‟ (n=51) content knowledge, science teaching efficacy beliefs (STEBIA), sense of community within the course (LEO) and science teaching enjoyment (STES). Qualitative data indicated teachers valued the cohort system, content aligned to teaching needs, and the instructor‟s response to requested feedback. Results indicated that online courses can provide valuable professional development opportunities for K-12 science teachers to deepen their knowledge, sharpen their skills, and maintain their knowledge of science developments. Because teachers play an important role in the development of their student‟s attitudes towards science, it is extremely important that science and education communities collaborate to create courses that use contemporary pedagogy to address the content-knowledge needs of teachers required by National Science Standards criteria.
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Incorporating a Watershed-Based Summary Field Exercise into an Introductory Hydrogeology Course
Alan E. Fryar, University of Kentucky
Karen E. Thompson, Smith Management Group, Inc.
Susan P. Hendricks, Murray State University
David S. White, Murray State University
We have developed and implemented a summary field exercise for an introductory hydrogeology course without a laboratory section. This exercise builds on lectures and problem sets that use pre-existing field data. During one day in April, students measure hydraulic heads, stream and spring flow, and stream-bed seepage within the rural watershed of a third-order perennial stream in western Kentucky. Students calculate net specific discharge at various scales, map groundwater flow in the watershed, and calculate vertical hydraulic gradients at the mouth of the watershed, where the stream enters a reservoir (Kentucky Lake). Distinctive features of the exercise include hydraulic head measurements in large-diameter domestic wells and in piezometers installed in the reservoir embayment. Kentucky Lake is raised ~ 2 m shortly before the field trip, thus providing an analog of bank storage. Former students who responded to a questionnaire indicated that the exercise was worthwhile. The exercise was based at a biological field station but could be completed at any field site where long-term hydrologic monitoring is in place or could be initiated.
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Application of Tablet PCs to Lecture Demonstrations on Optical Mineralogy
Thomas D. Hoisch, Northern Arizona University
Barbara A. Austin, Northern Arizona University
Shawn L. Newell, Northern Arizona University
Mark F. Manone, Northern Arizona University
Learning optical mineralogy requires students to integrate a complex theory with microscope manipulations and image interpretation. To assist student learning, we performed lecture demonstrations during which digital photomicrographs were taken and delivered to students using Tablet PCs, whereupon they were imported into note-taking software and annotated with digital ink by both instructor and students. We tested two different methods for delivering images: (1) images were delivered via an ad hoc wireless network using the file transfer capability of NetSupport School, using the instructor's computer as the hub, and (2) images were saved to a shared folder that could be accessed by students via the regular campus wireless network. Students loaded the images into either Microsoft OneNote or PowerPoint, and then annotated them with digital ink using the stylus pen as the instructor lectured. Use of the campus wireless network resolved issues of slow image delivery encountered with the ad hoc wireless network. Summative assessment revealed that most students thought the Tablet PCs helped them to understand the complex visualizations. The degree of acceptance among students of using Tablet PCs for note-taking during lectures improved considerably when the issue of slow image delivery was resolved. In addition, students commented that it was helpful to have the images close up and that the colors were highly accurate.
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GPS: Geoscience Partnership Study
Dwight Schuster, Indiana University School of Education, IUPUI Department of Earth Sciences
To promote and expand geoscience literacy in the United States, meaningful partnerships between research scientists and educators must be developed and sustained. For two years, science and education faculty from an urban research university and secondary science teachers from a large urban school district have prepared 11th and 12th grade students to mentor 7th grade students on the topic of climate science. This partnership was based on the premise that high school students, when trained and supported by teachers and scientists, have the capacity to extend middle school students‟ efforts to engage in and understand the geosciences. This paper a) describes mentors‟ and mentees‟ understandings of climate science as a function of their participation in the second year of this program, b) identifies the characteristics of effective mentoring relationships, and c) explores the scalable and sustainable aspects of this partnership.
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Technology, Accuracy and Scientific Thought in Field Camp: An Ethnographic Study
Anthony D. Feig, Central Michigan University
An ethnographic study was conducted on an undergraduate field course to observe and document lived experiences of students. This paper evaluates one of several emergent themes: that of technology dependence, and how it informs students' understanding of scientific reality. In the field, students tried to arm themselves with as high a degree of precision as possible. They assumed that technology was equated with precision, and in turn, precision with scientific reality; i.e., accuracy. Students rejected the notion that in some situations, low levels of precision may be "good enough" to be accurate. This theme of technology dependence suggests five broad implications. First, students are rarely taught, and rarely understand, the difference between precision and accuracy. Second, students should be taught to appraise a situation to apply an appropriate level of precision, rather than to assume that more is better. Third, students should be taught to value the process of doing things "by hand," such as locating oneself on a topographic map. Fourth, students should have ample opportunity to explore the complexities of physical and scientific reality. Finally, field camp is a late opportunity for shaping the professional growth of future geoscientists, and thus deserves a prominent place in geoscience curricula.
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