Making the "black box" model more transparent

Kaatje Kraft, Mesa Community College
and Annia Fayon, Merry Wilson, Erin Peters, Nicole LaDue, Christy Briles, Jim McDougall, and Ron Narode. Co-developed at the 2008 Metacognition Workshop
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Initial Publication Date: November 21, 2008 | Reviewed: January 17, 2015


Students will work with a "mystery box" to determine it's contents through an inductive reasoning process in order to better understand how models are used for geoscientific ways of knowing.

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This is appropriate for any introductory geology/geoscience class.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Students must be able to communicate in writing and orally

How the activity is situated in the course

This is ideally toward the beginning of the course in which the common thread throughout the class is how geoscientists use models for understanding which then helps them to make meaning of the natural world. This will provide a concrete experience for students to tie this abstract concept for a novice.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

Describe how a model is used in the scientific process for geoscientists

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Students will devise hypotheses, interpret observations, use evidence to support claims and draw conclusions.

Other skills goals for this activity

Working in groups
Poster Presentations
Materials construction

Description of the activity/assignment

Students will interact with a mystery box with "mystery internal contents." Through a general inquiry process, they will attempt to determine it's contents without seeing the materials. The general steps are below:
1) Generate ideas with the mystery box
2) Share out ideas in a Poster Session/Gallery Walk
3) Recreate your box with limited materials
4) Discuss how this represents geologic ways of thinking

Metacognitive components of the activity

There are multiple opportunities for student reflection throughout the activity in order to reflect on their learning and their confidence level.

Metacognitive goals for this activity:

Assist students in connecting their own ways of thinking (habits of mind) with those of a geoscientist.

Assessing students' metacognition

Students who actively engage with content are more likely to be able to visualize the content goals and reflection is an important way for students to clarify their own meaning making process.

Determining whether students have met the goals

Student reflections, student poster presentations, student discussions

More information about assessment tools and techniques.

Teaching materials and tips

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Supporting references/URLs