274-2 The Emerging Field of Geocognition

See more from this Division: Topical Sessions
See more from this Session: Geocognition: Researching Student Learning in the Geosciences

Tuesday, 7 October 2008: 1:45 PM
George R. Brown Convention Center, 332AD

Helen King1, Scott Clark2, Julie Libarkin2 and Alison Stokes3, (1)Higher Education Consultant, Alexandria, VA
(2)Department of Geological Sciences, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI
(3)Experiential Learning Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL), University of Plymouth, Plymouth, United Kingdom
This presentation sets out the proposition that ‘Geocognition' be recognized as a sub-discipline of geoscience. Geocognition investigates the mental processes involved in geological observations and interpretations and, by extension, the fundamental understanding of the Earth itself.

Geocognition encompasses research into geoscience education, which traditionally focuses on classroom settings, particularly conceptual and affective changes that occur in students as a function of instruction. In addition, Geocognition has moved outside the classroom and has begun tackling problems of importance to understanding the expert-novice continuum, psychomotor skills acquisition, and application of cognitive psychology principles to understanding how geoscientists perceive and understand Earth phenomena.

The emergence of this new sub-discipline can be evidenced through its growing number of graduate, postdoctoral and tenure-track positions being advertised within the geoscience community, the development of dedicated Geocognition research groups within geoscience departments, and an increasing scope for collaboration on a national and international scale.

Geocognition is becoming as much a part of geoscience as geophysics or any other sub-discipline. Geoscientists make observations of the Earth, filter these observations through complex cognitive functions, and produce interpretations about Earth's history and future. While they spend considerable time documenting and disseminating their observations and interpretations, we need a significantly deeper understanding of how brain function influences our perceptions, and how we process observations. Understanding of cognitive processes within the geosciences – whether by experts or the general public, within classrooms or elsewhere – requires both the rigorous application of cognitive science methodologies and a fundamental and far-reaching understanding of geological phenomena. This understanding of how geoscientists think and practice can then be applied to better support learning of the discipline in formal and informal settings, by students, the public and policy makers.

See more from this Division: Topical Sessions
See more from this Session: Geocognition: Researching Student Learning in the Geosciences