What Do I See Images - Crucial Tool to Place-Based Case Studies
My interest in geoscience education research arose out of the practical desire to help guide my students' study of the environment by helping them to learn to "read" the landscape in the way that a geologist or student of field natural history would do. I approached this goal by making study of a specific place of the student's choice the framework into which the course content of geology is integrated as analysis tools. Since each student is focused on their own particular place, which they probably cannot visit during the semester, it is important that they have an example place that the entire class can study as a model to follow. I have typically used a site that none of the students have visited but which exhibits features that apply to most content areas discussed in an introductory geology course. To help students "read" the landscape of a place they have never been, I have adopted a strategy I read about in a paper in JGE about 10 years ago in which students are given a picture to analyze during class time. The original paper (the reference for which I have long since forgotten) had students analyze an image projected on the screen by annotating a paper version with their own identifications and interpretations. The image was then discussed with peers and ultimately the whole class before being collected for rapid assessment by the instructor. I have modified this strategy by creating specific "What Do I See?" exercises related to the sample place that the class is analyzing. Each major topic has an image, or a few images, carefully selected to address a particular geologic topic or question. For example, when discussing volcanoes, images of the site and of the clearly volcanic Mt. St. Helens are analyzed as a What Do I See to help students look at landforms and rock types to see if the site in question has a volcanic origin. Another exercise a few weeks later examines images of rocks from the site and compares these to sedimentary structures from a modern beach, again offering clues to some aspect of the sample location's past. The individual exercises are quick to assess and build the student's understanding, topic by topic, as we use these tools to tease out the multi-stage history of the class example. Having a physical paper copy to write on and share with peers is an excellent collaborative learning tool that demonstrates in real time the skills and approach to knowledge that we want students to learn over the semester. (It also is a great proxy for attendance!) This approach gives us many of the benefits of a field trip to a place we cannot visit because the same site is visited repeatedly, but viewed through different but related lenses. In the ultimate complement to a geology faculty member...many students internalize this approach to collecting evidence for analysis and end up sharing pictures of their places long after the class has ended. The images have clearly been taken to highlight evidence that addresses a hypothesis about their place, which the student is excited to confirm with their former instructor. Most of these students are NOT geology majors!