Introduction to the methods of geoscience
Secondary science education students read an article that describes methods of inquiry in Earth science and answer questions in preparation for developing lesson plans in Earth science. The article explicitly describes how the methods used in Earth science differ from those classically taught in school science, and provides a new framework for secondary science teachers to put in place in their teaching.
- explicitly introduce students to the methods of inquiry used in the Earth sciences;
- give students the opportunity to reflect on how those methods differ from what they know or have learned in the past;
- build a framework for teaching Earth science concepts that they can use in developing their own lesson plans.
Methods of GeoscienceThe reading explicitly describes the methods of geoscience.
Context for Use
Description and Teaching Materials
I used the following questions and had students submit their answers through Blackboard:
- The authors contrast what geoscientists do with the classic "scientific method" as it is taught in schools. What is the difference between those two things?
- List the Earth science methods that the authors describe, and give a brief example for each method (a different one than is given in the article).
- Pick one of the methods that geoscientists use and describe how you might use that method to teach a geoscience lesson in a high school classroom.
- How can you modify that classic scientific method to be more inclusive of what all scientists do, including geoscientists?
Teaching Notes and Tips
Kastens and Rivet highlight six methods used by geoscientists:
- Running classic laboratory experiments,
- Developing and experimenting with physical models,
- Developing and experimenting with computer models,
- Observing change over time,
- Observing variation across space, and
- Using modern analogs as proxies for past processes.
The students found our discussion quite eye-opening. They had always felt that Earth science was slightly different from chemistry, for example, but couldn't quite articulate why or how. After reading this article, answering the questions, and discussing in class, they were much more likely to talk about "what geoscientists do" than they were before. It provided a great foundation for the rest of the course.
I graded the questions they answered prior to class, but the main assessment came later in the course in three places:
- The students are assigned a practicum, in which they teach a field-based lesson to local high school students. Part of the requirement of the lesson was to include am emphasis on the methods of investigation used by geoscientists, so this was part of the grade for the practicum;
- In a take-home exam, students were asked to provide an example of a modern analog for a past process, and how they would incorporate that into their teaching;
- The final project for the course was to design a data-rich lesson plan, a component of which also had to include the methods of geoscience.
References and Resources
Kastens, Kim A., and Rivet, A., 2008, Multiple Modes of Inquiry in Earth Science : The Science Teacher, v. 75, no. 1, p. 26-31.