As Julie knows, I spend most of my time with some of the leaders in
the use of physical and numerical models in the surface processes
realm, though I was trained in one of the most field intensive
undergrad programs around. What I have concluded, from many years
listening to this debate is that very few modelers dismiss field work,
especially in one's early career, for exactly the reasons Jeff Dodick
It sounds like Frank is dealing with courses for non-majors. In the
absence of good data, perhaps it would help to point to two federally
funded efforts, that demonstrate a firm belief in the community in
the value of exposure to both methods of understanding the Earth.
The first is the Earth Science Literacy Principles, funded by NSF, and
developed as a community driven consensus based document to gather the
Big Ideas and Supporting Concepts necessary for all Americans to be
literate in Earth Science. The first Big Idea is about how Earth
scientists do their work and supporting concept 1.3 lists the methods
we use, with both field work and modeling included equally.
The other is the GLOBE program. This has been around since 1995, has
been invested in by numerous federal agencies, and actually has been
adopted worldwide. It is for K-12 teachers and students, but it is
based on the concept that if children gather data according to the
same protocols used by Earth scientists, they can then manipulate
their own data to begin to understand the modeling process. In this
case, the data itself is nothing revolutionary--mostly gathered in the
school yard--but it is the pedagogy of experiencing the data
collection that is emphasized.
National Center for Earh-surface Dynamics
University of Minnesota
On Tue, Oct 26, 2010 at 4:17 AM, Julie Libarkin <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> This conversation touches on a number of fundamental questions about what it
> means to be an expert geologist. As Frank and Alan point out, geologists
> view traditional geologic field work as vital to training, particularly for
> undergraduates (MacDonald et al., 2005 research paper in JGE). Geoscience
> educators have extended this to propose that field skills (and related
> skills, like spatial visualization) are hallmarks of expertise (e.g.,
> Kastens et al., 2009 opinion paper in EOS). And, as Jeff points out, field
> work as a source of direct experience likely has significant benefits for
> moving people towards the abstract skills that have been identified as
> markers of expertise across a number of fields (e.g., Google "abstract
> skills, expertise" for empirical, theoretical and opinion-based works).
> Interestingly, very little work on the nature, benefits, and drawbacks to
> fieldwork has been done - this is particularly true in the geosciences,
> which generally receive less attention from science education, learning
> science, or cognitive science researchers than biology, physics and
> chemistry. From the perspective of a postpositivist*, I very much want to
> see us collect data and challenge our assumptions about the value of many of
> of the instructional approaches we use, including fieldwork. What would
> geoscience training look like if we stepped back and asked, in whatever
> 1) What are the purposes of geoscience instruction for non-majors, majors,
> pre-service teachers, etc.? How can we align our curriculum, from courses to
> programs, to meet those purposes, and how do we know if we are successful?
> 2) What are the affective, cognitive, and behavioral benefits to experiences
> we offer our students? For example, what benefit does a mineralogy course, a
> standard offering, provide to geoscience undergraduates? What benefit would
> other offerings, say remote sensing, have? In essence, why do we do what we
> do, beyond the fact that this is the way we have always done it?
> The two questions above can be applied to field work, and lead me to think
> about other, more basic questions:
> How much of geoscience today, as opposed to most of the 20th century, hinges
> on on-the-ground field observations? What role do on-the-ground field
> observations and interpretation play in preparing geoscientists for other
> types of data collection and interpretation? How do the social nature (ala
> Stokes et al.) and the situated/embodied aspects (ala Brodaric and Gahegan;
> and Semken/Riggs place-based work) of fieldwork contribute to geocognitive
> function and development? Basically, is fieldwork really vital for
> geoscience training, and under what circumstances, and for whom?
> I have lots of other thoughts and my own opinions, but will stop here before
> this turns into a manuscript! Just in case anyone reading this doesn't know
> me: I personally think fieldwork has benefits. The problem is that my
> opinion is just an opinion, and geoscience education/geocognition need to
> challenge our most popular opinions in order to move forward. I would love
> to see our field go through a revolution, along the lines of the
> geosyncline-to-plate-tectonics paradigm shift, based on empirical evidence.
> Thanks for the interesting discussion!
> Take care
> *You can all thank Scott Clark for getting me into the habit of using the
> nice "postpositivist" label to sum up my mantra: "collect data, then
> challenge your interpretations by collecting more data".
> On Oct 26, 2010, at 2:22 AM, Jeff Dodick wrote:
> I think that you might be missing an important point here about fieldwork.
> The expert scientists that use modelling, remote sensing etc. likely have
> spent many hours in the field. This may provide them with the concrete
> experience / visual images that are needed before they can work with the
> more abstract content of modelling, remote sensing. This is not the case
> with a typical novice who does not have this huge resource of experience /
> images with the concrete materials. This understanding is backed by basic
> learning theory (for example Piaget and Bruner) and is likely connected to
> work done in the psychology of visualization.
> So the value of such hands on field work is invaluable for giving the novice
> that connection to geology that he / she can scaffold into more abstract
> learning opportunities.
> Jeff Dodick
> Jeff Dodick
> Science Teaching Center
> The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
> Givat Ram, Jerusalem
> Israel 91904
> Tel: 972-2-658-6492
> From: Frank Granshaw
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Sent: Monday, October 25, 2010 10:36 PM
> Subject: Geoscience reliance on fieldwork
> Hello everyone...
> I am currently looking at two arguments regarding the inclusion of fieldwork
> in geoscience literacy courses.
> Since field studies are one of the major ways by which geoscience knowledge
> is constructed it is important to expose novices to how fieldwork works so
> they have some sense of where this knowledge comes from. Plus it gives them
> first-hand experience with at least some of the phenomena that they are
> looking at.
> With the refinement of remote sensing technology and an increasing emphasis
> on modeling and lab analysis, we are seeing more and more geoscientists that
> spend little or no time in the field. Consequently, it is an inefficient
> use of limited educational resources to engage novices in an activity that
> is becoming increasingly less important to the research community.
> Are any of you are familiar with any statistics related to the time various
> types of geoscientists spend in the field vs. other activities such as
> modeling, lab analysis, administration? Any reflections or information on
> the other issues associated with this question would also be appreciated.
> Frank G.
> Frank D. Granshaw
> Earth Science Instructor
> Portland Community College
> Sylvania Campus
> Portland, OR
> Julie Libarkin
> Associate Professor, Director - Geocognition Research Lab
> Michigan State University
> 206 Natural Science
> East Lansing, MI 48824
> Phone: 517-355-8369
> Editor-in-Chief, Journal of Geoscience Education
> Affiliations: Department of Geological Sciences, Division of Science and
> Mathematics Education, Cognitive Science Program, Center for Research on
> College Science Teaching and Learning