Teaching Temporal Thinking: Rates and Time
What Is Temporal Thinking? | Temporal Thinking in the Geosciences | Teaching Temporal Thinking | Events | Get Involved
What Is Temporal Thinking?
Temporal thinking is thinking about time, including thinking about events in a temporal context. It plays a role in many disciplines, including history, anthropology, archeology, evolutionary biology, astrophysics, and the geosciences. Read more about temporal thinking.
Temporal Thinking in the Geosciences
In the context of geoscience, "temporal thinking" includes several facets: the scope of Earth history, the range of rates at which geologic processes occur (from nearly instantaneous events such as earthquakes and volcanic eruptions to the erosion of mountains over hundreds of millions of years), the durations of those events, and the sequence of events within the Earth's history. Because many of these time scales and rates are beyond human experience, they present significant cognitive challenges and merit special attention within our curricula. Read more about temporal thinking in the geosciences.
Teaching Temporal Thinking
The Place of Temporal Thinking in the Curriculum
Because of the vast geologic time scale and extreme variability in geologic rates, temporal thinking is best developed through multiple exposures in multiple contexts. To produce graduates who are proficient at temporal thinking, we need to infuse it in our undergraduate curricula. See examples of how faculty are teaching temporal thinking across the geoscience curriculum.
Selected Pedagogical Approaches
- Using Analogies to Teach about Time summarizes best practices for teaching with analogies (based on cognitive science research) and reviews common analogies for teaching about time with those best practices in mind.
- Visualizations with Teaching Tips is a small collection of visualizations, submitted by faculty teaching about time, with their comments on how they use these visualizations to teach about time.
- Teaching about Geochronology is a page of recommendations for teaching about geochronology, from a group of geoscience educators and geochronologists.
- The Teaching About Time workshop synthesis summarizes the key findings and recommendations of the 2012 workshop. Read it to learn about the cognitive challenges of learning about time and the promising strategies for teaching.
- Barriers to Teaching or Learning About Rates and Time is a list of barriers to learning about geologic time, drawn from the experiences of applicants to the 2011 Temporal Learning Journal Club.
- Temporal Learning Journal Club Findings is a brief summary of the key findings from each meeting of the Temporal Learning Journal Club. The Journal Club explored the cognitive underpinnings of understanding geologic time.
- Assessing Temporal Thinking and Learning is a critically important component of teaching about rates and time. This page links to existing assessment instruments, including a baseline assessment for finding out where your students are starting and a page about mastery assessment that provides examples of the kinds of tasks you can have students do to demonstrate their mastery of temporal concepts.
- Courses with a focus on geologic time.
- Learning Goals for Geologic Time is a list of possible learning objectives related to temporal concepts, based on the key ideas in the Earth Science Literacy Principles. This is not intended to be a comprehensive list of possible learning goals, but it may help you to articulate your own list. Learn more about setting effective course goals in the Course Design Tutorial.
- Teaching Activities about geologic rates and time. One subset of these activities is our collection of posters about teaching activities, drawn from the presentations given at the 2005 GSA session on Geologic Rates and Time (see below).
- Assessments of student learning, with a focus on geologic time or temporal concepts.
- Visualizations relating to rates and time that are useful in the classroom.
- Selected essays on teaching and learning about temporal concepts, from participants at the 2012 workshop on Teaching about Time and scholars of temporal learning.
2012 WorkshopWe held a workshop on Teaching About Time at Arizona State University, in Tempe, AZ, in February 2012. This workshop brought together faculty teaching about time with researchers studying temporal learning to understand current best practice in teaching about time, to bring forward ideas from education and cognitive psychology that can inform improved practice, and to work together in ways that support improved teaching about time. Read the workshop synthesis for details.
2011 Journal ClubFrom January to May, 2011, the Temporal Learning Journal Club met once a month to discuss readings from the geoscience and cognitive science literature. We explored the cognitive underpinnings of understanding geologic time and wrote a summary of what we learned.
Sessions at Professional Society MeetingsThe Cutting Edge project has sponsored several sessions at professional society meetings related to teaching about time:
- Teaching About Rates and Time at the Fall 2012 American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco, CA.
- Time, Events, and Places: Understanding Temporal and Spatial Learning in Geoscience Education at the 2011 Geological Society of America meeting in Minneapolis, MN.
- It's About Time: Teaching the Temporal Aspects of Geoscience at the 2005 Geological Society of America meeting in Salt Lake City, Utah. This session highlighted strategies for teaching how geoscientists date events using paleontology, radiometric dating, relative proxy data, and other techniques, as well as strategies for bringing cutting edge geochronologic research into the classroom.
- Rates, Fluxes and Cycling in the Earth System: What Do We Know, What Are We Thinking at the 2004 fall AGU meeting in San Francisco, CA
- Contribute materials: If you have a teaching activity or course you'd like to add to our collections, please do.