Teach the Earth > Affective Domain > Dilemmas about Teaching

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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Meeting learning goals with a below average course part of Dilemmas
During the fall 2006 semester I taught a first year writing seminar entitled "The World's Oceans in the Global Environment," a course designed to introduce students to important topics in marine science in the context of Earth systems science, as well as key issues in ocean policy (e.g., fisheries, implementation of marine protected areas, etc.). As a writing seminar, most student work during the semester was in the form of writing assignments.

Affective Domain Vocabulary: Student Attitudes

Mineralogy Motivation - A Real-Life Tale of Woe part of Dilemmas
I teach mineralogy (do you feel my pain?). Mineralogy has a reputation for being a "weed out" course, and not very many students look forward to taking this class. But in addition, in our department I've encountered another problem: we have a degree option in paleontology, and students who self-select this option basically want to be Jack Horner and head out to the hills to dig up dinosaur bones.

Affective Domain Vocabulary: Student Motivation

Field Trip Anxiety part of Dilemmas
A few years into teaching my physical geology course, I made a bold move and added an all-day, mandatory field trip to the course. With 120 students in the course, orchestrating this field trip was neither an easy nor inexpensive task. I used the field trip as a major milestone of the course, talking it up for weeks beforehand, and structuring the lectures, labs and homework assignments to lead up to the Big Day. I am usually a pretty enthusiastic teacher, and my own excitement for the upcoming field trip was enough to make most of the students roll their eyes.

Affective Domain Vocabulary: Student Attitudes

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."

Affective Domain Vocabulary: Teaching Controversial Subjects:Evolution

Transforming Attitudes and Killing Interest in Introductory Geology Classes for Majors part of Dilemmas
Students enter Physical Geology with great interest in geology regardless of declared major or academic rank. Approximately 70% of students (n=306) declared a high level of interest in multiple aspects of geosciences. However, at the end of the semester, less than 30% of the same population recorded a high interest in geology (regardless of declared major, academic rank).

Affective Domain Vocabulary: Student Attitudes

Attitudes About Working in Groups versus Individually part of Dilemmas
A student comes to your office after class and states "I don't do groups." Group work is an important component of your Introductory Geology course. Teamwork is an primary learning objective of the course. Furthermore, the course is based on project-based learning, and 30% of each individual grade is calculated from group projects. What do you do? Do you require a group activity under any circumstance? Do you try to get the person to buy-in on collaborative work? Or, do we find an equitable alternative?

Affective Domain Vocabulary: Student Attitudes

Recruiting Under-represented Minorities into a Geoscience Program part of Dilemmas
Students of under-represented groups have little to no interest in the Svalbard REU program. Despite concerted recruitment efforts, members of under-represented groups often don't apply to the program. We use direct mailings (with recruitment posters) and presentations, advertisement at national meetings with minimal success. We can not seem to be able to place this paid opportunity on their "radar-screen."

Affective Domain Vocabulary: Student Attitudes

Irrecoverable Failure part of Dilemmas
The course is an Earth Science for Teachers course. The content is outlined in a popular 16-chapter introductory text. Licensing for teachers specifies a certain block of content to be covered, which is about 12 of the 16 chapters. The professor gave two high-stakes (counted for grade) quizzes to prepare students for their first test, over four chapters, which is an essay exam. Quiz grades were low, so the teacher chastised the class about being unmotivated and urged them to study more.

Affective Domain Vocabulary: Student Attitudes

Empathy part of Dilemmas
Students in a small upper level class discussing global warming students argue that anything we do to "save" the environment is worth any cost and ultimately benefits everyone equally. We explain that a person in another country might be willing to accept a degraded environment in exchange for economic improvement. Students are willing to accept that as an intellectual argument but it becomes clear in subsequent discussions that they did not change their arguments to accommodate this idea.

Affective Domain Vocabulary: Student Attitudes

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.

Affective Domain Vocabulary: Teaching Controversial Subjects:Climate Change

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