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Learning With Data WorkshopGSAOctober 28, 2007 (Using Interactive Web Modules for Teaching Plate Tectonics and Science Writing) Sabina Thomas (Baldwin-Wallace College, OH)
Setting of Institution (Baldwin-Wallace College) • Private college with approx. 4,600 students, including 1500 Lifelong Learners • Geology Minor only • Introductory physical and historical geology classes • Three hours lecture - three hours lab work per week • Distribution requirement (4 credits) • Mostly non-science majors • Majority freshmen and sophomores
“Scientific Method” Goal two-fold:1. Teaching Plate Tectonics2. Teaching Science Writing Graphic Representation of Data Terminology Constructivist Approach Real Earth Science Data Difference Between Observation and Interpretation
The Answer to My Wish List Came From Santa
Actually, the answer came from Santa Barbara, CA(enter Bill Prothero) • Interactive CD-ROM “Our Dynamic Planet” (ODP) -- equivalent to “Solid Earth”-- developed by Wm. Prothero (EarthEd Online and UCSB) • Paired with pedagogically sound instruction for science- writing assignments, developed with the help of Gregory Kelly (Dept. of Education, UCSB; now Penn. State)
Week-long Preparation for the Assignments • A week in class: Students learn elements and structure of a science paper • Introductory session in computer lab (CD-ROM) • Students are introduced to six discourse categories signifying different levels of induction and argumentative power, to use in their writing. • Categories based on the epistemic levels in Kelly & Takao’s (2000) argumentation analysis model (see also Prothero & Kelly, 2000; Takao, Prothero & Kelly, 2002) • Involved somebody in my College’s Writing Lab
Examples for Epistemic Levels 1. Observation: A long mountain system runs through the Atlantic Ocean. 2. Classification: The Mid-Atlantic rise/ridge system separates Africa and Europe in the East and the Americas to the West. 3. Description of a feature: For most of its length, the Mid-Atlantic Rise is about 1,500 km wide. 4. Relationship between classified features: Numerous volcanoes close to the western shore of South America are aligned parallel to the ocean trenches.
Examples for Epistemic Levels contd. 5. Description of a model or theory: An oceanic ridge or rise is formed where two plates are spreading apart. 6. Relationship between features and a model: Figure 2 shows a cross-section diagram across the mid- oceanic ridge, showing the occurrence of shallow earthquakes and the increasing ocean floor ages, in agreement with the model of seafloor spreading at divergent plate margins.
First Student Assignment: Small-Prep Paperwith Observations and Interpretation sections only • Students first write a short, 400-word Prep Paper on plate tectonic features in a given (prescribed) area. • Students were instructed to consciously use the discourse categories and label each sentence in their Small Prep Paper: • The Observations section should only contain categories 1, 2, 3, and 4 • The Interpretations section should mainly contain categories 5 and 6 • Electronic submission for grading.
Examples for Epistemic Levels 1. Observation 2. Classification 3. Description of a feature 4. Relationship between classified features 5. Description of a model or theory 6. Relationship between features and a model
Rubric for Small Prep Paper • Observations (30 points) • 1. Figure with world map shows location of small area (0 - 1 – 2) • 2. Adequate data are acquired. Data are relevant to the investigation (0 - 2 – 4) • 3. Observations are clear and quantitative (0 - 2 – 4) • 4. Observations are supported by figures, are adequately referenced in the text (0 -2 –4) • 5. Figures have informative figure captions (0 - 1 – 2) • 6. Symbols used are explained (0 - 1 – 2) • 7. Observations include descriptions of relationships between features (0 - 2 – 4) • 8. There is a clear distinction between observations and interpretations (0 - 2 – 4) • 9. Correct epistemic categories have been given in all sentences (0 - 2 – 4) • Interpretations (16 points) • 10. Correct interpretation of tectonic boundary and related plate tectonic model (0 -2 –4) • 11. The problem, model, and supporting data are clearly connected in the text and figure(s), showing that the interpretations follow logically from the data (0 - 2 – 4) • 12. Correct epistemic categories have been given in all sentences (0 - 2 – 4) • 13. Adequately describes tectonic model using cartoon-like sketch (0 - 2 – 4) • Overall (4 points) • 14. Word count is between 400 and 600 words. (0 - 2 – 4)
Second Student Assignment: Plate Tectonics Inquiry Paper • Students select a small area or a topic related to plate tectonics and its features. • They extract and manipulate data from interactive CD-ROM module “Our Dynamic Planet” • They write a 1200 to 1400-word plate-tectonics inquiry paper, including the following sections:Abstract – Introduction – Methods – Observation – Interpretation – Discussion – Conclusions – References • Again, electronic submission
Did It Work? Results of Surveys • Several surveys have been conducted in introductory geology core courses for non-majors at the end of the course. The results below are from surveys conducted between Fall 2001 and Fall 2004. • The comments given here constitute a representative selection. A complete list can be made available upon request
Did the use of discourse categories help you to understand the structure of a science paper? Yes 42 % Maybe / A little 30 % No 28 % • Yes. It did help because this was the first science paper I had to write for a college course, and I needed to become familiar with the structure. Labeling and organizing the sentences helped me to see how to do this. • Yes, because it helped me keep my opinion out of it. • No. They were more a waste of time because I did not really look at the # and what it meant.
Did using ODP and the writing assignments help you to gain a better grasp of the Theory of Plate Tectonics than just through lecture and textbook? Yes 84 % Maybe / A little 10 % No 6 % • The application of the theories to actual cases was really helpful and I feel that I finished the class with a strong understanding of the basics of Geology and the Tectonic Plate Theory. • Doing the paper certainly made me think about it in a more total sense and realize that it's going on all over the planet. • Yes, because the CD-ROM was a great visual aid in my understanding of writing the paper. • Not really because in order to understand what you were looking at on the CD-ROM; you had to have already grasped the concepts. • No. Writing two big papers were not helpful because they were very time consuming and I have other classes to do homework in as well!
Did the use of the CD-ROM help you to get a better understanding of scientific work (gathering data, formulating hypotheses, looking for patterns, etc.)? Yes 61 % Maybe / A little 21 % No 19 % • Yes because we had to gather info, organize, analyze, and apply it. • Yes, principally because of the occasional difficulty in tracking down the information I needed. It helped me to clarify exactly what numbers I needed, why I needed them, and how they could be useful. Also, sometimes the numbers were much different than I expected them to be, and it was a good challenge for me to try and work out that discrepancy. • Yes, because when I finally got the hang of it, it's good to have hands-on stuff to learn from. • No, I was confused by the CD-ROM.
Do you think any of the skills you have learned by using the CD-ROM would be useful in another course, or outside the college? Yes 51 % Maybe / A little 19 % No 30 % • Absolutely. The problem solving of learning to use the software properly, the use of images and information to put together a scientific paper could be of use in a number of different courses in all sorts of different subjects. • Interpreting the data will aid my teaching skills. Being able to look at data and explain its meaning is vital to conveying the information to students. • Maybe geography • Not to me personally because outside of the class I don’t study plate tectonics or anything.
Conclusions: It Worked! Some Benefits of using real earth-science data: The students’ judgment is honed regarding writing skills and argumentative power Being able to distinguish between observation and interpretation is crucial for an informed citizenry The quality of the papers received since using real is significantly above the average of science papers that students have written in the past. Added benefits of using real earth-science data in an inquiry paper: Each paper is unique and as such fairly plagiarism-proof
References • Kelly, G. J., Chen, C., & Prothero, W. (2000). The epistemological framing of a discipline: Writing science in university oceanography. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 37, 691-718. • Kelly, G. J. & Takao, A. (2000, April). Epistemic levels in argument: An analysis of university oceanography students’ use of evidence in writing. Science Education, 86, 314-342. • Prothero, W. & Kelly, G. (2000). Investigations into plate tectonics with “Our Dynamic Planet” CDROM, Regents of University of California. • Takao, A. Y., Prothero, W., Kelly, G. J. (2002). Applying argumentation analysis to assess the quality of university oceanography students’ scientific writing. Journal of Geoscience Education, 50, 40-48.