On the Cutting Edge - Professional Development for Geoscience Faculty
Teaching about Hazards in Geoscience
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Cutting Edge > Hazards > Pedagogy

Pedagogy

Faculty teach about hazards for a variety of reasons, from eliciting behavior change to developing disaster preparedness. Hazards are also complex, integrative phenomena influenced by many factors and they can have far-reaching physical and social effects. There are opportunities and challenges in helping students learn about these important aspects of the Earth system.

Opportunities

Hazard events in the news provide an excellent "hook" to get students interested in geoscience topics. There is a window of opportunity after an event when the attention of students and the general public is attuned to learn as much as possible about what happened and why. Integrating current events into class activities or connecting the content you're covering to an emergent disaster can take advantage of that interest and also provide your students with example of how the geosciences are relevant to their lives.

Since hazards result from the interaction of multiple processes or systems, teaching about them is naturally an integrative activity. They can be a useful tool in helping students draw connections between geoscience concepts and understand the potential feedbacks between interacting systems. They can also show how science can be of service to society by examining potential risks in particular areas and focusing on preventative steps to address those risks.

Land surface elevation in the area surrounding Wells G & H Superfund Site, Woburn, Massachusetts Details

Teaching about hazards can also be at least in part to a form of disaster preparedness education, especially in areas that see frequent events of one or more types of hazards. Access to accurate information about hazards they may personally face combined with a realistic understanding of the risk and some ways to prepare for them can do a great deal to help students avoid feeling helpless in the face of powerful disasters.

Challenges

Teaching students about hazards is more than just helping them learn the processes. Students deal with hazards and disasters in emotional ways and based on preconceived ideas. So learning about them is more than simply a cognitive exercise. Understanding possible affective responses to learning about hazards can help you foster students' positive reactions and rather than generating resistance or "gloom and doom."

The effects of hazards also reach beyond the physical sciences and impact real people and communities. To fully understand any particular hazard, students need to be able to take into consideration how the physical event sends ripples out through the social fabric of the community that is affected. This helps students put what they learn about the science into a context they can relate to.




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