Essential terms for introductory students: Do textbooks provide the answer?

Monday 11:30am-1:30pm UMC Aspen Rooms
Poster Presentation Part of Geoscience Education Research


Karen Kortz, Community College of Rhode Island
Jessica Smay, San Jose City College
Amber R. Caulkins, University of Rhode Island
Geologic terms create a common language for communicating geoscience concepts, but introductory students can learn only a limited number of these terms. To determine if there is consistency in which terms are emphasized in textbooks, we analyzed the glossaries of ten full-version introductory geology textbooks. We identified a large number of terms (2,776 total unique terms with an average of 678 terms per textbook) but found very little overlap between textbooks (44 terms, which is 1.6% of the total unique terms, were in all the textbooks). This minimal overlap suggests that the terms essential for introductory students are not usefully defined by textbooks. We argue that the widely used glossary terms are not necessarily the most essential terms for introductory students to learn and that some of the terms that are in only a few glossaries may be considered important for the field. Examples of the glossary terms overlapping in all textbooks include abrasion, barrier island, epicenter, igneous rock, joint, mantle, plate tectonics, and volcano. On the other hand, examples of terms that are in three or fewer glossaries include bedrock, climate, global warming, landfill, oil, outcrop, plate, and system. We will present results of our study, including lists of terms common to all and most textbooks, and will encourage interaction with attendees to discuss which terms should be emphasized in an introductory course.