Academic journal article Journal of Geoscience Education

Concept Sketches - Using Student- and Instructor-Generated, Annotated Sketches for Learning, Teaching, and Assessment in Geology Courses

Academic journal article Journal of Geoscience Education

Concept Sketches - Using Student- and Instructor-Generated, Annotated Sketches for Learning, Teaching, and Assessment in Geology Courses

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

To promote active learning and increase student involvement in their own knowledge construction, we have implemented the use of concept sketches, which are simplified sketches that are concisely annotated with processes, concepts, and interrelationships, in addition to labels of features. When concept sketches are instructor-generated, they help students see how we organize and explain our knowledge. Students can generate their own concept sketches after seeing animations, video clips, photographs, and detailed textbook-style illustrations. They can also generate concept sketches while reading their textbook or after participating in inquiry exercises and in-class demonstrations. By generating such sketches and explaining them to their peers, students necessarily process the information more fully, consolidate their understanding, and personalize the information to suit their learning styles. Concept sketches are also excellent for identifying student conceptions prior to instruction, for directing student study as homework, and for assessing student understanding in exams. Concept sketching engages students in the learning process, develops critical thinking skills, teaches communication skills, and makes the course more enjoyable. Abundant educational research indicates that such sketches promote better student comprehension of the system under study and permit students to better use this knowledge to investigate the underlying processes and principles.

INTRODUCTION

Geologists are natural sketchers - in our field notebooks, on the blackboard, in our publications and formal presentations, or on napkins. Sketches and other illustrations are an important way we record our observations and thoughts, organize our knowledge, try to visualize geometries of rock bodies or sequences of events, and convey ideas to others (Rudwick, 1976; Hawley, 1993). Sketching is one way many people, in science and other disciplines, make their thoughts visible (Temple, 1994). If this is an important way we learn and wrestle with problems, why not help our students explore the visual world of geology in the same way? Geology textbooks contain a plethora of detailed and beautifully illustrated diagrams, each depicting some fundamental geology concept or system. Unfortunately, many students simply skip through the textbook without really examining or internalizing the figures, or they fail to appreciate the value of these figures in constructing their own knowledge. For whatever reason, most students do not know how to interpret these scientific illustrations, nor can they identify the important factors represented in each (Lowe, 1989, 1993; Schwartz, 1993). We propose that an easy way to improve how students interpret or use scientific illustrations is to allow them to sketch their own versions of the concepts in an active-learning environment.

One way to envision our mental knowledge structure is as a hyperlinked network of concepts, with our ability to recall and apply any concept being related to how extensively that concept is linked with other pieces of information. Accordingly, much thought and research have gone into designing ways to help students relate and link otherwise disparate pieces of information (Novak and Gowin, 1984). From this line of inquiry arose the idea of concept maps, which are flow-chart-like or web-like diagrams that attempt to portray the hierarchies and other relationships of related concepts (Novak, 1998). Concept maps are a useful tool to help students articulate ideas, identify and arrange key concepts, and see how these ideas and concepts are connected. Concept maps have been shown to help students construct and organize knowledge and learn more than students who did not construct concept sketches (Novak and Wandersee, 1991; Esiobu and Soyibo, 1995). The process of constructing a concept map evidently encourages students to try to relate different aspects into coherent knowledge, more so than if simply reading or hearing about a subject. …

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