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.Help
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Trilobites Live! part of Dilemmas
I teach Historical Geology at a large public university. As I was setting up class the other day, a student, Eric, nervously approached me and asked a question that caught me off-guard. "How do you know for sure that trilobites and humans didn't co-exist?" he asked. I smiled, thinking he was making a joke. After all, we were several weeks into a second-semester geology course and this was the first time he had expressed these ideas. "Nice one," I said, "how can I really help you today?" But then I realized he wasn't trying to be funny. His face turned stoic and serious, but before I could gather myself and formulate an answer, he continued, "You throw around these huge numbers for the age of the earth, the age of the rocks and the age of the fossils. But how do you know? Aren't you just repeating the numbers that you have read elsewhere? In a church group, we learned that humans and all other life were created at the same time, only a few thousand years ago."
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.
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.
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.
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.
"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.
Al's bandwagon part of Dilemmas
In the eight person seminar class is an inquisitive, nontraditional, student who is a motivated popular science reader. This student challenges the conclusions made by the vocal majority of scientists that global warming is caused by human activity.
Is planetary change bad? part of Dilemmas
We hear about global warming as a problem and there is a reasonable consensus that humans are exacerbating the problem. Our global population is currently about 6 billion, and scientists estimate that the planet's capacity to sustain ends at about 12 to 15 billion. Doubling time is 38 years. Next examine the core profile. Tundra pollen lies in the lowest layers, sage and prairie grasses in the middle and spruce and pine pollen in the top.
Water Conservation versus Ecosystem Preservation part of Dilemmas
Nearly all of the water in the Colorado River system is removed for agricultural, industrial, and residential uses before it reaches the mouth of the river. However, the water delivery system in southern Arizona and California has a number of leaks (mostly seepage through the bottom of unlined canals), by which some of the water moves through the subsurface and back into the lower reaches of the river, sustaining a limited ecosystem in the Colorado River Delta.
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.