274-5 Geoscience Perception: Expert and Novice Experience of Graphs, Outcrops, and Landscapes

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

Tuesday, 7 October 2008: 2:30 PM
George R. Brown Convention Center, 332AD

Cathryn A. Manduca1, Dedre Gentner2, Mark P. Holden3, Carol J. Ormand1, Benjamin Jee2, Bradley B. Sageman4, Thomas F. Shipley3, Basil Tikoff5 and David H. Uttal2, (1)Science Education Resource Center, Carleton College, Northfield, MN
(2)Department of Psychology, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL
(3)Department of Psychology, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA
(4)Department of Geological Sciences, Northwestern Univ, Evanston, IL
(5)Department of Geology and Geophysics, University of Wisconsin Madison, Madison, WI
When geoscientists look at a landscape, they see its geologic history. This expertise involves at least three elements: strategies for looking at the outcrop, identification of features that are salient to the geology, and integrating observation with relevant geoscience knowledge. Studies at the Spatial Intelligence Learning Center are investigating expert and novice behavior in all three areas, as well as strategies for teaching these skills.

A pilot study showed that students and experts identify the same features as important in time-series graphs. However, for experts, the shape of the graph elicits a large body of content knowledge regarding climate change. Thus, the difficult part of teaching students to ‘read' these graphs is developing this content knowledge.

A second study is testing the use of progressive alignment to teach fault recognition. Progressive alignment exploits the alignment of similar features to recognize differences. In our initial experiment only students with prior instruction in geology benefited from this technique. High performers tended to understand that movement is the defining feature of faults. This emphasizes the interplay between perception of salient features and content knowledge. Work in progress further explores this relationship, and in addition, integrates eye tracking to understand looking strategies employed by experts and novices.

In a third study, classic approaches to perception are exploited to investigate how experts and novices segment landscapes into salient categories. For example, experts and novices divide landscapes into similar common categories (e.g., lakes, mountains, and dunes). We hypothesize that only geoscientist will further sub-divide them into geologically important areas . Combining eye-tracking with location recall, these experiments are providing insight into visual search strategies, expert chunking, and development of salient features.

This work demonstrates the potential for combining cognitive science and geoscience education research to yield new insights into geoscience expertise and its development.

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