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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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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.

Affective Domain Vocabulary: Teaching Controversial Subjects

Gender Dynamics part of Dilemmas
A Geosciences program and classes has few to no female students in them. One female faculty wants to expand the diversity of the program. She then teaches an introductory course to increase enrollment of female students. This course however is full of students who hold the following attitudes:

Affective Domain Vocabulary: Student Attitudes

Too Cool for Science part of Dilemmas
On a frigid Minnesota afternoon, I had just finished a mini-lecture in my introductory class, and I threw out a question to the whole class. Chris responded enthusiastically with a wonderful and correct contribution. At which point, Sam groaned and said, in a voice audible to the entire class,"suck up!" A few other eyes rolled, and other hands that had been raised were slowly lowered.

Affective Domain Vocabulary: Student Attitudes

Meteorology Professor Bob part of Dilemmas
In an upper-level meteorology class, Meteorology Professor Bob introduces complex equations including calculus. A growing body of students strongly resist using mathematical skills that should have been mastered in the prerequisite mathematics courses. The instructor explains the context and necessity of these equations for understanding meteorology at the upper-division level. A common statement of students is: "I don't do math." Students insist they love meteorology but dislike math and lobby the department head for a graphical approach without the use of equations.

Affective Domain Vocabulary: Student Attitudes

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

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