Initial Publication Date: January 16, 2007

Kaatje Kraft

Physical Science, Mesa Community College

Kaatje Kraft

What are the key issues related to the role of the affective domain in teaching geoscience that you would like to engage at the workshop?

The cultural & language affective environment: how can I create a positive learning environment for those students that come from different cultural backgrounds as well as my English Language Learners?

Gender component--as much as I try, it's very difficult to break old habits (both mine and my students)--how can I create an environment that shifts the dominant behavioral norms?

What expertise or experience (in study of the affective domain or teaching of geoscience) will you bring to the workshop? How would you like to contribute to the workshop?

I have done research on how to create a scientific discourse community and building a community within a campus setting. I have some summary reviews that I'd be more than happy to share with participants. In the course of my research, I have found that a holistic approach to education in the sciences helps to achieve a scientific discourse community. That includes oral & written discourse, notebooks, metacognition in an inquiry setting. I can share classroom examples and preliminary research data from my own classroom.

Essay: Creating a Scientific Discourse Community in my Geologic Disasters Class

I teach at a Community College where I have a diverse blend of students taking my introductory geology classes (many of whom are in their first college level science course). Every semester, there is always a decline in enrollment throughout the semester. Some are due to legitimate reasons, but many students drop out or just choose to stop coming to class. I've tried to create more in-class activities in past semesters, and yet that seems to change little to this trend. This past year I've embarked on a project to create my classroom into a Scientific Discourse Community, in the hopes that the affective experience is enriched along with the curriculum itself.

I wanted to create a classroom that not only covered the required competencies, but also created an environment where students wanted to come to class. I have been involved in an NSF-funded research project within my district in which we have worked with local Middle & High School Science teachers to work on creating a Scientific Discourse Community within their classrooms as well as ours (Communication In Science Inquiry Project, CISIP: ESI-TCP Award #: 0353469). A Scientific Discourse Community creates a culture that fosters student learning. Students learn to negotiate meaning of and in science by interacting with each other and internally synthesizing a shared understanding. This community develops through extensive student-student interaction by engaging in the process of doing science.

While doing true geoscience inquiry is a challenge within a lecture classroom, I chose to create a case-based study process for my Geologic Disasters class in which students would examine data from different disasters and learn to make their own claims based on evidence they collect from the given case study. Throughout the class, they are actively engaged in working together and sharing information with each other, modeling portions of the scientific process. As a result, I've watched the classroom transform from a Teacher-Student guided conversation to a Student-Student guided conversation.

On a qualitative level, I have seen the level of conversations between students advance to probing one another for details on evidence that supports claims and working hard to analyze new situations for potential disaster problems. Students seem to have a positive attitude toward class and attendance is overall stronger on a day to day basis.

On a quantitative level, while the overall current grade averages are lower than past semesters, the attrition rate has decreased significantly. The past three semesters are a snapshot of my previous attrition rates with an average between 16-19%, however this semester it was only 10.8%. This is only one semester, however current qualitative and quantitative trends show a potential positive experience for students in the current student-driven climate rather than previous lecture-based (with occasional small group activities interspersed).

For more information on Scientific Discourse Communities see:
Yerrick, Randy (2004) Establishing Scientific Classroom Discourse Communities: Multiple Voices of Teaching and Learning Research. Mahwah, NJ, USA: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Incorporated.

Lemke, J.L. (1990) Talking Science: Language, Learning, and Values. Norwood, NJ: Ablex Publishing Corporation.