Academic journal article Journal of Geoscience Education

How Students Can Be Supported to Apply Geoscientific Knowledge Learned in the Classroom to Phenomena in the Field: An Example from High School Students in Norway

Academic journal article Journal of Geoscience Education

How Students Can Be Supported to Apply Geoscientific Knowledge Learned in the Classroom to Phenomena in the Field: An Example from High School Students in Norway

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

Our study explores how students apply geoscientific knowledge learned in the classroom to phenomena in a field setting. This was investigated by collecting video data from an ordinary high school context in Norway involving one teacher and a class of 17 high school students. We analyzed how the students learned rock identification and relative dating, first during the classroom preparation and then in the field. Supplementary data were collected 1 y after the fieldwork, when six of the students solved two posttasks of rock identification and relative dating. The video analyses of the students' talk and behavior while doing rock identification and relative dating focused on the level of student engagement, their thinking moves, and the extent of their understanding. The findings reveal that students who were able to apply their knowledge of relative dating were not able to do so for rock identification. One reason for this, we suggest, is that the nature of the geoscientific content influenced the students' ability to apply their knowledge in a field environment. Therefore, we identify qualities of relative dating and translate them to what we call "tools for observation and interpretation." The article closes by suggesting how the qualities of relative dating can inform the development of tools for observation and interpretation for rock identification. © 2013 National Association of Geoscience Teachers. [DOI: 10.5408/12-383.1]

Key words: fieldwork, classroom preparation, high school, rock identification, relative dating

PROBLEM

Fieldwork provides students with the opportunity to apply knowledge learned in the classroom to natural phenomena in the field. This can promote deep understanding of content knowledge and stimulate long-term memory (Orion and Hofstein, 1994; Boyle et al., 2007; Mogk and Goodwin, 2012). However, in the context of our research on geoscience fieldwork involving high school students in Norway, we observed that fieldwork does not always lead to an improvement of students' understanding. When we revisited some high school students 1 y after they had learned geoscience through classroom and fieldwork activities, two observations were made:

* The students were unable to demonstrate a relevant understanding of rock identification.

* The students were able to demonstrate a relevant understanding of relative dating.

Based on these results, the entry point for our research was obvious-why, although they were exposed to fieldwork, did students succeed with relative dating but not with rock identification? In this article, we investigate what happened to these students while they were learning about rock identification and relative dating, first in the classroom and then in the field. Using this approach, the aims are to identify reasons for the preceding results and to discuss how high school students can begin to develop the skill of applying their geoscientific knowledge to phenomena in the field in a way that contributes to their understanding.

THEORETICAL UNDERPINNINGS

Scholars propose that fieldwork can provide students with opportunities to apply knowledge and skills learned in classroom situations and thereby gain deep understanding of geoscientific concepts (Orion and Hofstein, 1994; Dodick and Orion, 2003; Mogk and Goodwin, 2012). This learning potential in fieldwork is comparable to a theoretical definition of understanding offered by Wiske (1997): the application of knowledge and skills in different situations helps students develop understanding. Consequently, we use understanding as a theoretical concept to investigate how students apply the geoscientific content they learn in the classroom to phenomena in the field. This is because knowledge application generally serves two synchronous purposes: it makes students' understanding visible to themselves and others, and it provides an opportunity to improve understanding (Wiske, 1997). The underlying assumption is that knowledge must be learned in a preceding situation before it can be applied. …

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