Initial Publication Date: February 3, 2012

In the Trenches - January 2012

Volume 2, Number 1

In This Issue

In the Trenches Cover January 2012

Online Supplements
This site provides web links that supplement the print articles as well as news and web resources. To receive the full edition of In the Trenches join NAGT

Students at Macalester College learn about the biaxial indicatrix using a baking potato. Details
Cultivating Expert Learners

Karl Wirth, Macalester College, St. Paul, MN

As educators and scientists, we are passionate about what we teach as well as experts in our respective content areas. So, when a student stumbles on an exam or falls short of our expectations in a project, it is hard to not wonder, "How did this happen?" We taught them, so why didn't they learn? Scientists have discovered much about learning and expertise in recent years – things that should be influencing how we teach and how students learn. In fact, helping our students become better learners might be one of the most powerful gifts we can give them.

Reading Reflections

Critical Thinking Skills

Knowledge Surveys

Exam Wrappers

Concept Mapping

Students use their notebooks for class discussions and reflections. Details
Encouraging Students to Think About How They Think

Kaatje Kraft, Mesa Community College, Mesa, AZ

In introductory geology classrooms, students enter with varied goals but are primarily taking the course for a general education requirement (e.g., Hoisch & Bowie, 2010). As a result, we need to support learning in future contexts outside of the geosciences as well as the content of introductory geology. One skill that supports both goals is metacognition.

  • Using Situated Metacognition to Enhance Student Understanding of the Nature of Science
    In this presentation from the 2008 Workshop on the Role of Metacognition in Teaching Geoscience, Dr. Kraft spoke about how she has used metacognition with her students to improve their understanding of the Nature of science. Her intention is to illuminate the "scientific habit of mind" and at the same time help her students attain a firmer grasp on their own habits of mind.

It's All About the Brain, Stupid

Dexter Perkins, University of North Dakota, Grand Forks, ND

I started college teaching in 1981 and, like most new professors, knew little about teaching other than what I had experienced as a student. I soon realized that I was in trouble — or, rather, that my students were in trouble — because I had no idea what I was doing. I prepared "great" lectures and delivered them, only to find at exam time that students hadn't absorbed what I was saying. So, after a few years of frustration, I began to read to find out what experts had to say about teaching and learning.

Students Learning Axial Tilt
Making Earth's tilt axis "visible" for students at University of Akron. Details
Making Student Thinking About Learning Visible

David McConnell, John Bedward, Laura Lukes, Katherine Ryker; North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina

STEM research indicates that student-centered teaching strategies can enhance student learning. However, these methods don't necessarily include teaching and learning activities that take account of the emerging neuroscience research described in the previous articles by Wirth and Perkins. The Geoscience Learning Process (GLP) research group at NCSU is working on a series of projects around the general theme of how students learn. Here we briefly describe some aspects of course design intended to enhance the learning process.

Marking a Decade of On the Cutting Edge

Heather Macdonald, College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, VA; Cathy Manduca, Science Education Resource Center, Northfield, MN; David Mogk, Montana State University, Bozeman, MT; and Barbara Tewksbury, Hamilton College, Clinton, NY

Applying Critical Thinking in the Geosciences

Kathleen Bower, Eastern Illinois University, Charleston, IL

Faculty members know students should practice critical thinking skills. However, we also recognize that implementing such a curriculum in a general education setting can be challenging.

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Web Features

NAGT, its members, and its sponsored projects have produced a number of resources related to the topics addressed in this issue.

Bringing Research on Learning to the Geosciences
This This website provides access to a wealth of information on how geoscientists are integrating research on learning into the practice of geoscience teaching and research. Resources include:

  • Earth and Mind: The Blog
    The Earth and Mind blog aims to facilitate discussion and discovery about how humans think and learn about the Earth and environment. Earth & Mind explores the intersection between Geosciences, Education and Cognitive Sciences. The geoscientists who post here are interested in the thinking of expert geoscientists, novices, and everyone in between. They are also interested in how education shapes students' knowledge, understanding, motivations, and actions concerning the Earth.
  • Synthesis of Research on Thinking and Learning in the Geosciences
    This project synthesizes existing knowledge and explores unanswered questions in critical areas of research on cognition and learning relevant to the Geosciences. It focuses on four themes: Geological Time, Complex Systems of the Earth, Spatial Thinking in Geosciences and Field-base Learning.

The Affective Domain in the Geosciences

This topical module from On the Cutting Edge provides educators with information about how students' affective response affects their learning. What is the Affective Domain? How do you address affective issues in science courses? How do educators recognize and overcome affective challenges for teaching controversial topics including teaching evolution and teaching environmental issues? These and many other useful resources are available.

The Role of Metacognition in Learning
An awareness of the learning process can improve learning dramatically. Yet students are rarely taught how to develop this awareness. We can help our students to improve their learning by incorporating metacognition into our courses: by having them think about their thinking and by helping them to become aware of and monitor their learning strategies. This module from On the Cutting Edge provides information for faculty to help them integrate metacognitive thinking into their classroom. Many resource are available including videos of presentations given by leading educators at a workshop in 2008.

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