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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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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

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

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

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

Karl the Tree Hugger part of Dilemmas
Karl has been assigned to you as an advisee, and you have never met him and have no information on him other than what the registrar shares. He is obviously smart (he received a "5" on the AP Environmental Science exam). He has made an appointment with you to discuss a program of study.

Affective Domain Vocabulary: Student Motivation, Student Attitudes

Fixation on grades part of Dilemmas
Each semester our university offers several large-enrollment (n ~ 220) sections of a lecture-based introductory physical geology course. Although the course can be counted toward a geological sciences major, it functions mostly as a service course that provides non-major students a science credit necessary for graduation.

Affective Domain Vocabulary: Student Motivation, Student Attitudes

Mineralogy Motivation - A Real-Life Tale of Woe part of Dilemmas
I teach mineralogy (do you feel my pain?). Mineralogy has a reputation for being a "weed out" course, and not very many students look forward to taking this class. But in addition, in our department I've encountered another problem: we have a degree option in paleontology, and students who self-select this option basically want to be Jack Horner and head out to the hills to dig up dinosaur bones.

Affective Domain Vocabulary: Student Motivation