Using the Science Literacy Documents to Guide Instruction
What are the most important Earth science ideas for everyone to understand? How do these ideas connect to the structure of your course and your program? In one way or another, most Americans have been taught most of these ideas, but it is fairly clear that most Americans don't understand the Earth sciences in ways that practically inform their lives, their work, and the fulfillment of their duties as citizens.
Why? There are no examples of creating a thick description of what everyone should understand about any topic that has led to wide swaths of the population understanding the target content, in spite of countless attempts to do just that throughout human history. While that's true, it doesn't mean that such exercises are frivolous endeavors. It's a valuable exercise for experts to consider the most important ideas for everyone to understand, even if the following holds generally true:
"90% of your students forget 90% of the content of your course within 90 days of finishing the course."
Don Weinshank (personal communication)
Weinshank's approximation of educational outcomes carries with it at least two important implications:
We should work to change the system of education so that the statement is no longer true; and;
We should think very carefully about the 10% of the content that students hold onto after our courses are complete.
We'll consider both of these implications.
- Analyze and discuss the most important big ideas within their own courses and develop strategies to nurture students' durable understandings of these ideas.
- Compare, contrast, and synthesize different sets of Essential Principles and Big Ideas for a range of disciplines within the Earth sciences.
- Begin development of course materials that are reflective of a coherent, accessible, and retainable (as appropriate to the course level) conceptual framework.
Note that some selected resources have been added to this page, below the program schedule.
1:30 Welcome and Introductions
1:45 Big Ideas Overview
2:00 Adapting Feynman's question to the Earth sciences:
"If, in some cataclysm, all of scientific knowledge were to be destroyed, and only one sentence passed on to the next generations of creatures, what statement would contain the most information in the fewest words?" (Feynman, 1963)
"If all understanding of Earth science was lost except for a few sentences, what should those few sentences say?"
Sharing ideas and discussion
2:30 Mapping Our Ideas Onto Essential Principles and Big Ideas
- Ocean Literacy Principles and Fundamental Concepts
- Atmospheric Science Literacy: Essential Principles and Fundamental Concepts of Atmospheric Science
- Climate Science Literacy Essential Principles
- Energy Literacy: Essential Principles and Fundamental Concepts for Energy Education
- The NGSS's Three Dimensions
3:15 Applications to course and program design
- Know that it will take time to make this shift.
- And, other big shifts in teaching.
- But do it. It's better to do the right thing clumsily than to do the wrong* thing beautifully.
3:55 Workshop evaluation
Some other resources mentioned:
- Rainbow Chart Poster (AGU 2013)
- The Teacher-Friendly Guide to the Earth Science of the United States
- Included within The Teacher-Friendly Guide to the Earth Science of the United States:
- ...is the chapter, Real and Virtual Fieldwork: "Why Does This Place Look the Way it Does?" which has a set of questions to guide fieldwork that resonate with the Bigger Ideas.
- ...and, the chapter, Earth System Science: The Big Ideas
- Question sets and checklists:
- Essential and Unit Questions by Sarah Miller and Don Duggan-Haas
- Fieldwork Checklists (These questions are also included in the Fieldwork chapter above).
- Geoscience Checklist (These questions are also included in the Fieldwork chapter above).
- Ecology Checklist (These questions are also included in the Fieldwork chapter above).
- The 2015 GSA presentation, "The Obstacles Are Largely the Same: On Climate Change and Education Reform" (The presentation has been expanded beyond the 15 minute GSA talk and used in other venues).
- At the 2016 GSA meeting, look for, "FIRE AND BRIMSTONE AND FORT MCMURRAY: CONSIDERING THE IMPLICATIONS OF APOCALYPTIC RHETORIC IN CLIMATE COMMUNICATION," which will address some of the issues related to why we believe stuff that is obviously untrue.
*"Wrong" isn't really the right word here, but it's not an unreasonable approximation.