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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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

Fixation on grades part of Dilemmas
Each semester our university offers several large-enrollment (n ~ 220) sections of a lecture-based introductory physical geology course. Although the course can be counted toward a geological sciences major, it functions mostly as a service course that provides non-major students a science credit necessary for graduation.

Affective Domain Vocabulary: Student Motivation, Student Attitudes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"I Want to Believe You": Is there comfort in simplicity and discomfort from complexity? part of Dilemmas
Professor Spurrier has prepared carefully for a presentation on paleoclimates, in an effort to have students learn about past climate changes. She presents information on current and historical measurements, tree ring data, ice core data, and ocean sediment data, going further into the past and demonstrating the inferences on what the climates were like. The students seem restless with this presentation, and finally one bright student raises his hand.

Affective Domain Vocabulary: Teaching Controversial Subjects:Climate Change