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.
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.
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."
The Legacy of "We've always done it this way" part of Dilemmas
Joe recently completed his PhD and has landed a tenure track faculty position in the geology department at "Research U" for the fall semester. Joe will be teaching a large introduction to physical geology course in the spring. Research U has a variety of resources to help Joe develop his course and integrate the "affective domain," active learning, "clickers," etc. into his teaching. However, the department has a strong emphasis on research and views innovative teaching as not a priority. While in graduate school, Joe TAed both lower level introductory lectures and an upper level lab class, but received no formal training in teaching and was encouraged by his research advisor "just get by teaching."
Is planetary change bad? part of Dilemmas
We hear about global warming as a problem and there is a reasonable consensus that humans are exacerbating the problem. Our global population is currently about 6 billion, and scientists estimate that the planet's capacity to sustain ends at about 12 to 15 billion. Doubling time is 38 years. Next examine the core profile. Tundra pollen lies in the lowest layers, sage and prairie grasses in the middle and spruce and pine pollen in the top.
Water Conservation versus Ecosystem Preservation part of Dilemmas
Nearly all of the water in the Colorado River system is removed for agricultural, industrial, and residential uses before it reaches the mouth of the river. However, the water delivery system in southern Arizona and California has a number of leaks (mostly seepage through the bottom of unlined canals), by which some of the water moves through the subsurface and back into the lower reaches of the river, sustaining a limited ecosystem in the Colorado River Delta.
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).
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.
Selective use of evidence to support viewpoints part of Dilemmas
In an Introductory Geology class you give your students a final project where they select their own topic of interest. John chooses the topic on the theory of evolution. By the time of your first meeting to discuss the project, he found a lot of information on the Internet which claims to have evidence that disproves the theory of evolution.
Working for big oil part of Dilemmas
A student has already completed several courses in geology and is seriously considering majoring comes to you with the following personal dilemma. The student has realized that the most lucrative employment opportunities are with major oil and mining industries. However, she doesn't want to put herself in a position of working for one of the "bad guys."