Oct 13 2011: Thinking and Learning in the Geosciences

Prof. Kim Kastens
Dept. Earth and Environment, Columbia University

This colloquium is intended as an introduction to research on thinking
and learning in the Geosciences, pitched for an audience who know a
lot about geosciences and not so much about education research. As
geoscientists, we ask our brains to make sense of an object larger than
the human senses can encompass at one time, older than any time span
with which humans have direct experience, which is not susceptible to
experimental manipulation, whose crust at any given point has
experienced superimposed chemical, physical and biological events,
where flows of matter and energy intertwine at a bewildering level of
complexity. How do we pull this off?

The talk is organized in three concentric rings:

The first and broadest ring situates geoscience education research amid
physics education research, chemistry education research, drawing
on the current National Research Council study on “Discipline-based
Education Research.”

The middle ring draws from the current Synthesis of Research on
Thinking & Learning in the Geosciences project, and explores four key
themes: spatial thinking in geosciences, temporal thinking in
geosciences, systems thinking in geosciences, and teaching and learning
in the field.

The most-tightly focused and final section of the talk will dig into
one of my own research projects: an effort to understand how
geoscientists and geoscience students integrate information from scattered outcrops to form a mental model of a geologic structure.

Kastens et al., 2009

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