Gauging how novice geologists process and learn in first field experiences

Tuesday 4:30pm-5:30pm Red Gym
Poster Session


Megan D'Errico, Sonoma State University
David Kimbrough, San Diego State University
Field-based courses at the university level are logistically difficult, but an essential part of the learning process in geology. We present a pilot study related to two field trips (Grand Canyon, AZ; Rainbow Basin, CA) in the fall semester for a required course (GEOL200) for all majors and minors in Geological Science, at San Diego State University. Through post-field surveys, we captured student data to better understand how novice geologists master basic field techniques and spatial thinking, and how they decipher the geologic story of a new field area.
After a group-paced field trip to the Grand Canyon, data (Likert scale from 0-5, least to most) shows that all students felt their geologic knowledge was growing (avg=4.0). Majority of students also felt they had the basic geologic knowledge and skills from previous classroom experience to produce a good map (avg=2.8). Two days (group mapping, independent mapping) were spent in Rainbow Basin, CA. In comparison to the first survey, students felt more comfortable working independently after completing their first field exercise alone (third experience overall). From descriptions of how they managed their time independent mapping, 22% reported they didn't manage their time well and couldn't map the whole area, and despite identifying poor time management, another 26%, could describe their planning and identified what they would do differently next time mapping.
In these field experiences, instructional changes implemented included: providing students with a Google Earth image and directing students to reconnaissance the entire map area first. We conclude that having three field experiences, gradually making students more independent, prepared them to manage their time and accomplish their first independent geologic map. The educational journey of a novice geologist is different for each student and we aim to provide them with the safe, encouraging space to survey a new field area.