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Making geoscientific thinking explicit

This webpage draws on discussion by participants at the 2012 Teaching the Methods of Geoscience Workshop to support faculty in developing students' geoscientific thinking skills.
Geoscientific thinking is so ingrained for most college-level geoscience instructors, it is easy forget that students don't have yet have the same habits of mind. Teaching geoscientific thinking is not difficult, however—the single most important thing you can do is to simply make your thinking explicit. You may think that you are teaching geoscientific thinking already by including authentic investigations such as creating a geologic map or working with incomplete data. This is a very good start, but it is not enough. The next step involves making the methods geoscientists use, their habits of mind, and the nature of their investigations explicit in your teaching. Here are some ways to use this simple but important strategy:

As shown in the examples above, being explicit involves articulating learning outcomes that focus on geoscientific thinking skills, designing activities that allow students to both develop and reflect on those skills, and assessing not only mastery of content, but mastery of geoscientific thinking skills. Keep in mind that habits of mind require repeated experience and practice to develop. As a result, geoscientific thinking is not a topic that fits at a single point in a course or curriculum, and the way it fits in will vary for different student groups. See specific strategies for teaching geoscientific thinking to introductory geoscience students, geoscience majors, and pre-service teachers.