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Affective Domain Dilemmas

This collection of dilemmas began at the February 2007 Workshop as a way of harnessing the collective expertise of the participants to help each other figure out how best to deal with scenarios and situations that commonly arise in the geoscience classroom. A short write-up of the "dilemma method" was presented at the October 2007 POD workshop on the Affective Domain in teaching and learning, where further solutions to the dilemmas were written.


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Scientific uncertainty and global warming part of Dilemmas
Climate change is the major environmental issue facing all inhabitants of spaceship Earth. As Earth science educators, we must inform students about the scientific consensus on global warming and projections of future warming through this century. Recent research has resulted in a dramatic advance in our understanding of climate history.

Affective Domain Vocabulary: Teaching Controversial Subjects:Climate Change

Selective use of evidence to support viewpoints part of Dilemmas
In an Introductory Geology class you give your students a final project where they select their own topic of interest. John chooses the topic on the theory of evolution. By the time of your first meeting to discuss the project, he found a lot of information on the Internet which claims to have evidence that disproves the theory of evolution.

Affective Domain Vocabulary: Teaching Controversial Subjects:Evolution

Sermon of the rocks part of Dilemmas
Professor Jones has taught in the geology department for 30 years. His notions of teaching and learning can be summarized in the saying, "I'm here to teach, and students are here to learn." His approach to teaching involves lecturing from the textbook that he authored. Lectures, for Dr. Jones, are not unlike a Sunday sermon. He talks and some students listen. Others sleep, read newspapers, and surf the Web. Student evaluation of his classes and teaching effectiveness are routinely low.

Affective Domain Vocabulary: Student Motivation, Teaching Controversial Subjects

Working for big oil part of Dilemmas
A student has already completed several courses in geology and is seriously considering majoring comes to you with the following personal dilemma. The student has realized that the most lucrative employment opportunities are with major oil and mining industries. However, she doesn't want to put herself in a position of working for one of the "bad guys."

Affective Domain Vocabulary: Student Attitudes

The Legacy of "We've always done it this way" part of Dilemmas
Joe recently completed his PhD and has landed a tenure track faculty position in the geology department at "Research U" for the fall semester. Joe will be teaching a large introduction to physical geology course in the spring. Research U has a variety of resources to help Joe develop his course and integrate the "affective domain," active learning, "clickers," etc. into his teaching. However, the department has a strong emphasis on research and views innovative teaching as not a priority. While in graduate school, Joe TAed both lower level introductory lectures and an upper level lab class, but received no formal training in teaching and was encouraged by his research advisor "just get by teaching."

Affective Domain Vocabulary: Student Motivation

"I Want to Believe You": Is there comfort in simplicity and discomfort from complexity? part of Dilemmas
Professor Spurrier has prepared carefully for a presentation on paleoclimates, in an effort to have students learn about past climate changes. She presents information on current and historical measurements, tree ring data, ice core data, and ocean sediment data, going further into the past and demonstrating the inferences on what the climates were like. The students seem restless with this presentation, and finally one bright student raises his hand.

Affective Domain Vocabulary: Teaching Controversial Subjects:Climate Change

Empathy part of Dilemmas
Students in a small upper level class discussing global warming students argue that anything we do to "save" the environment is worth any cost and ultimately benefits everyone equally. We explain that a person in another country might be willing to accept a degraded environment in exchange for economic improvement. Students are willing to accept that as an intellectual argument but it becomes clear in subsequent discussions that they did not change their arguments to accommodate this idea.

Affective Domain Vocabulary: Student Attitudes

Convincing faculty about the importance of the affective domain part of Dilemmas
Professors may believe they are "only there to teach" and the students are "there to learn," and it is not the professor's responsibility to worry about motivating them or making them feel good about learning. Possibly, students don't have the ability to succeed, so why should a professor try to motivate students who have a stronger potential to fail?

Affective Domain Vocabulary: Student Motivation

Age of the earth and relationship to belief systems part of Dilemmas
In order to fully understand Earth processes such as plate tectonics, mountain building, erosion, evolution, and various time scales of global climate change students must have a firm grasp of geologic time and the age of the Earth. Mary is a student in science class for teachers. In a reflective writing assignment Mary reported that she did not believe that the Earth was 4.6 billion years old and constructed a list of young earth arguments that indicate an age of ~6,000 years.

Affective Domain Vocabulary: Teaching Controversial Subjects

Avoiding hopeless paralysis part of Dilemmas
In an intro class, I wanted to engage students and show them the importance of the field of geology in their lives. So I presented the evidence for an imminent peak in world oil production and explained how oil forms, how long that takes and how difficult it is to find. I followed the bad news with some good news about research into energy efficiency and alternative energy sources. I assigned the students to write minute-papers at the end of class about this lecture.

Affective Domain Vocabulary: Student Motivation, Teaching Controversial Subjects

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