Greetings colleagues, 


Julie Libarkin and I, along with colleagues in geography and cognitive
sciences, are working on a project that will investigate the underlying
cognitive processes used by novice and expert geoscientists; we are
particularly interested in discovering key similarities and differences in
different populations along the expert-novice continuum. This work will
provide cognitive sciences -based evidence for future education and
instructional design initiatives. Since the list-serve is brand new, we
thought it might be a good opportunity to try it out as a means for both
communicating our ongoing work and gauging community interest in this


We are submitting a REESE proposal to NSF next week (1/8). Although we have
solicited letters of support and/or participation for this and past
proposals through traditional means, this list-serve provides us with an
opportunity to show NSF that the geocognition and geoscience education
research community is active and interested. A brief description of the
project is pasted below; please let us know if you might be interested in
participating as a research subject, support the project as a needed next
step for the field, know of any ongoing research we should consider, or
would like us to keep you updated as our work progresses! Participation in
the project could include one or both of the following: (1) two days of
bedrock mapping in the Michigan UP with data collected consisting of maps,
GPS tracks, and possibly a follow-up interview, and (2) experimental tasks
at MSU consisting of memorization, sorting, and observation activities. 


Please email [log in to unmask] and/or [log in to unmask] directly, so
we don't clutter the list-serve; of course, a discussion about this utility
or fruitlessness of this type of work over the list-serve would be great!



RESEARCH SYNOPSIS: Learning Across the Expert-Novice Continuum: Cognition in
the Geosciences


The overall goal of the project is to better understand the transition from
novice to expert geoscientist from a cognitive perspective. Specifically we
will look at three populations: undergraduate junior/senior geology majors
engaged in their first field-training experience (novices), graduate
students with some field training and/or field-based data collection
experience, and professional geoscientists with more extensive field data
collection experience (experts). The goal will be met as we:

1) Characterize the knowledge and behavior of the three populations as they
are engaged in an authentic field-mapping task through collection of both
quantitative and qualitative data. The task consists of a day-long mapping
project in which participants create a geologic map of a small region; this
task is both typical of field-based educational programs and representative
of actual professional geologic practice. Analysis of these data sets will
address the question of how knowledge, reasoning, and problem-solving skills
related to the natural world develops and manifests across the novice-expert

2) Characterize the cognitive processes of the three populations as they are
engaged in experimental cognitive tasks through collection of data from
performance on the tasks and think-aloud interviews as participants complete
tasks. These data will help answer the question of whether or not
visualization skill is a critical aspect of geological expertise.
Furthermore, these tasks will enable us to closely tie our project results
to the larger expert-novice literature in the cognitive sciences.

3) Link data sets from both types of tasks to gain a comprehensive picture
of novice to expert geological thinking.


Please let us know what you think!


Thanks and take care,

Heather and Julie





Heather L. Petcovic

Assistant Professor

Department of Geosciences and

The George G. Mallinson Institute for Science Education

Western Michigan University

Kalamazoo, MI 49008


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