Initial Publication Date: January 16, 2007

Dexter Perkins

Department of Geology, University of North Dakota


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?

Hard to say. The thing is this: I am pretty sure that the affective domain is of great importance when we think about how students learn. But, I don't know exactly how important (compared to cognitive domain) nor do I know what to do about it. So, I am trolling for ideas. I think one thing that needs to be done is to make sure that we all know what the phrase "affective domain" means. Most definitions are just laundry lists of things. If we are going to stick with such a definition, then we need to go through the items in the list one-by-one and discuss causes, effects, mitigations, etc.

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 been a student of teaching for over a decade and have been experimenting with alternative teaching strategies for most of that time. I am very familiar with the teaching literature, especially as it relates to cognition (thinking) and pedagogy. I have run workshops and been active in other ways in the nation-wide move to promote better science teaching at the college level.

Essay: The Affective Domain and College Students

There are many reasons why I think college teachers (and their students) should think about the affective domain. Below is a summary of some significant problems/conundrums that I have encountered that, I believe, fall into that domain: Sometimes students are just not ready to receive/learn information. If students are to learn, they must be willing to learn. They must be willing to listen to instructors with respect, to read and appreciate what they hear and read, and in other ways to recognize and value authority. Unfortunately, students are not always this way.

For maximum learning, students must be active participants in the learning process. They must attend class, they must participate in class, and they must put effort into participation. They must be motivated. Frequently, in recent years, I have found students who are unwilling to do one or all of these things.

Students must have values that they bring to the classroom. For example, they must recognize the value of seeking truth. They must understand why knowledge is good (to quote Animal House). They must value problem-solving skills. They must recognize the value of getting actively involved. And, their values must be reflected in the way they approach their education. I am not sure, but I think a lack of values may be a problem with some college students. Perhaps it relates to maturity, or perhaps it has another origin.

Students must organize their ideas and place them into a context with all the other things going on around them. They must be organize their lives, balancing school-, job-, play-time. They must set priorities, deciding which activities to focus on when and their commitment to each. They must decide the direction of their lives, the pace they will take, and (ultimately) where they want to end up. This relates directly to values (above) but also involves many other things. Lack of organization of this sort is a major problem with many students.

Finally, students need to strive toward balanced lives. They need to balance their practices, schedules, behavior and goals. They need to develop consistent social, emotional and personal schemas to guide them through their lives. This development is ongoing—throughout an entire lifetime—but it depends on good habits and thought processes that we should reinforce while students are in our classrooms.