INVISIBLE LIGHT CONCEPTIONS: New paper published in Astronomy Education Review (2011)

A new paper, led by GRL Director Julie Libarkin, documents conceptions of invisible light held by middle and high school students as well as teachers. This paper identifies common issues students have with infrared and ultraviolet radiation, including ideas that persist into adulthood.

READ AT THE PUBLISHER’S WEBSITE: Invisible Misconceptions: Student Understanding of Ultraviolet and Infrared Radiation

Invisible Misconceptions: Student Understanding of Ultraviolet and Infrared Radiation

ABSTRACT. The importance of nonvisible wavelengths for the study of astronomy suggests that student understanding of nonvisible light is an important consideration in astronomy classrooms. Questionnaires, interviews, and panel discussions were used to investigate 6–12 student and teacher conceptions of ultraviolet (UV) and infrared (IR). Alternative conceptions about the characteristics and human sensual perception of visible light, UV and IR, were observed in many students and in a subset of teachers. Instruction involving electromagnetic radiation should first address preexisting alternative conceptions, and conceptual questionnaires such as the one used here can help teachers to identify student ideas prior to instruction.

GENETICS CONCEPTIONS RESEARCH (2011)

GRL scholars have produced two reports related to college students’ conceptions of genetics. The first, led by Sarah Jardeleza, investigates student ideas about the location of genes and DNA in the human body. The second, led by Terri McElhinny, reviews the state of genetics curriculum and assessment in the U.S. and makes suggestions for a next generation Genetics Concept Inventory Suite.

DOWNLOAD: McElhinny et al., 2011 REPORT ON STATUS OF GENETICS CURRICULUM AND ASSESSMENT IN THE U.S.

PLATE TECTONICS CONCEPTIONS: New paper published in Journal of Geoscience Education (2011)

A new paper, led by former GRL postdoc Scott Clark (now of University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire), documents conceptions of plate tectonics held by undergraduates. This paper identifies common issues students have with terminology, plate motion, and subsurface melting. The potential for common images to cause misunderstandings is also discussed.

READ AT THE PUBLISHER’S WEBSITE: Alternative Conceptions of Plate Tectonics Held by Nonscience Undergraduates

Alternative Conceptions of Plate Tectonics Held by Nonscience Undergraduates

ABSTRACT. The theory of plate tectonics is the conceptual model through which most dynamic processes on Earth are understood. A solid understanding of the basic tenets of this theory is crucial in developing a scientifically literate public and future geoscientists. The size of plates and scale of tectonic processes are inherently unobservable, necessitating the use of images and models in instruction. To explore plate tectonics conceptions held by undergraduates, we designed and administered a postinstruction survey instrument centered on a common schematic representation of plate tectonics. We report results from a sample of n = 60 nongeoscience majors enrolled in five different introductory Earth-science courses taught at a major research university and a community college. Students held a number of alternative conceptions associated with terminology, plate motion, and plate-related subsurface melting. We also note that some aspects of figures commonly used to teach plate tectonics are problematic for students and may actually result in reinforcement of alternative conceptions. Further work at both the K–12 and college levels directed at innovative approaches to address student conceptions regarding plate tectonics, including designing images that support key scientific messages, is needed. This research can inform curriculum development for entry-level geoscience courses as well as the use of images to convey complex science.

CAPTURING COGNITION: New paper published in Computers & Geosciences (2011)

A new paper, led by GRL graduate student Sheldon Turner, documents the value of Tablet PCs for capturing cognition. This paper documents the unique data sets that Tablet PCs, coupled with video capture technologies, now allow us to collect.

READ AT THE PUBLISHER’S WEBSITE: Novel applications of Tablet PCs to investigate expert cognition in the geosciences

Novel applications of Tablet PCs to investigate expert cognition in the geosciences

ABSTRACT. In this paper, we present new methodologies developed to investigate cognitive processes related to perceiving and interpreting Earth phenomena. This area of study, known as geocognition, is an emerging and vital aspect of geoscience. Geocognition gives geoscientists an understanding of how people conceptualize earth processes. For example, geocognition research can be used to generate effective strategies for increasing public scientific literacy in this new era of climate change and energy crisis. We collected spatial visualization and working memory data using a Camtasia add-on for PowerPoint to generate a unique set of static drawings and videos of the drawing process. Analyzing these data provides unique insight into the underlying cognitive processes. For example, quantitative patterns that emerge within a subpopulation of novices or experts show us the common errors and patterns in how objects are drawn, including drawing order and time spent drawing. We believe that these unique data will contribute to the ongoing efforts to generate new understanding of the nature of geoscientific expertise.

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