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 project.


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 spectrum.

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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