Earth Educators Rendezvous > Previous Rendezvous > Rendezvous 2018 > Program > Morning Workshops > Using Conceptual Frameworks of Earth Systems to Frame Future Directions in Systems Thinking Research

Using Conceptual Frameworks of Earth Systems to Frame Future Directions in Systems Thinking Research

Thursday, Friday 8:30am-11:30am Ritchie Hall: 366
Workshop

Conveners

Hannah Scherer, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State Univ
Lisa Gilbert, Williams College
Systems thinking is a fundamental geocompetency and developing student conceptualization of the Earth as a system is key to issues facing society. Additionally, systems thinking is a major topic for geoscience education research (GER), an endeavor that has engaged many members of the community for some time. This workshop will explore and build upon findings from a recent synthesis of work on systems thinking in the context of Earth systems (Scherer, et al., 2017), which identified four conceptual frameworks: Earth systems perspective, Earth systems thinking skills, complexity sciences, and authentic complex Earth and environmental systems. These frameworks provide a starting point for operationalizing systems thinking both in research studies and in classrooms; they will inform discussions that draw on participants' experience and expertise. Participants will leave the workshop with new strategies for how to identify and describe student systems thinking abilities in the context of classroom instruction and geoscience education research studies.

Overview

The importance of an earth systems approach to education has been well-documented. However, students face significant challenges when learning an earth systems approach:

  • developing accurate mental models of near-surface earth systems (Herbert, 2006)
  • seeing the earth system as a whole instead of disconnected parts (Orion and Ault, 2007)
  • encountering sophisticated, initially counterintuitive conceptions of causality and mechanism (Stillings, 2012, p. 104)
  • recognizing that Earth is a dynamic system (Orion and Libarkin, 2014)

This workshop will explore and build upon findings from a recent synthesis of work on systems thinking in the context of Earth systems (Scherer, et al., 2017), which identified four conceptual frameworks:

  • Earth systems perspective. Emphasis on high-level interconnections between major Earth spheres (bio-, hydro-, litho-, etc.); systems thinking abilities related to conceptualizing the Earth system as a whole and identifying connections between the spheres.
  • Earth system thinking skills. Emphasis on transformation of matter in Earth cycles (e.g. water cycle); systems thinking abilities related to identifying and organizing system components, processes, and relationships and dynamic and cyclic thinking.
  • Complexity sciences. Emphasis on the scientific study of complex systems; systems thinking abilities related to recognizing complex system characteristics such as feedbacks, emergence, and self-organization.
  • Authentic complex earth and environmental systems. Emphasis on knowledge of a specific complex near-surface Earth system (e.g. a lake) or phenomenon (e.g. coastal eutrophication); systems thinking abilities related to reasoning about the specific system or phenomenon.

These frameworks provide a starting point for operationalizing systems thinking in both teaching and research; they will inform discussions that draw on participants' experience and expertise. Participants will leave the workshop with new strategies for how to identify and describe student systems thinking abilities in the context of classroom instruction and geoscience education research studies.

Workshop Program »

Target Audience

This workshop is designed for participation from a broad range of EER attendees.

  • Experts and newcomers to systems thinking are encouraged to participate

  • Teaching and research interests both welcome

Goals

By the end of this workshop, participants will be able to:

  • Identify different perspectives on systems thinking that are used in research and instruction

  • Implement new strategies for how to identify and describe student systems thinking abilities in the context of classroom instruction and geoscience education research studies

  • Strengthen teaching, student learning, and assessment of systems thinking in existing courses and activities

Format

Workshop activities will be centered around strengthening participant conceptual understanding of key systems thinking ideas and preparing them to apply new ideas in practice. The workshop design will be responsive to the needs of participants. Strategies employed will include:

  • Structured group brainstorming exercises

  • Brief presentations and learning activities that address key concepts

  • Small group design tasks

  • Individual application and reflection time

References

Earth Science Literacy Initiative, 2009, Earth science literacy principles: the big ideas and supporting concepts of earth science: Washington, D.C., National Science Foundation, p. 13.

Herbert, B. E. 2006. Student understanding of complex earth systems, In Manduca, C. A., and Mogk, D. W., eds., Earth and mind: how geologists think and learn about the earth. Boulder, Colo: Geological Society of America, p. 95-104.

Ireton, M., Manduca, C., and Mogk, D., 1997, Shaping the future of undergraduate earth science education: Innovation and change using an earth systems approach: American Geophysical Union.

Mayer, V. 1991. Framework for Earth systems education: Science Activities: Classroom Projects and Curriculum Ideas, 28: 8-9.

NGSS Lead States. 2013. Next generation science standards: For states, by states. Available at http://www.nextgenscience.org/next-generation-science-standards (accessed 30 August 2016).

Orion, N., and Ault, C. R. 2007. Learning Earth science, In Abell, S. K., and Lederman, N. G., eds., Handbook of research on science education. New York: Routledge, p. 653-687.

Orion, N., and Libarkin, J. 2014. Earth system science education, In Lederman, N. G., and Abell, S. K., eds., Handbook of Research on Science Education, Volume II. New York: Routledge, p. 481-496.

Scherer, H. H., Holder, L., and Herbert, B. E. 2017. Student learning of complex Earth systems: Conceptual frameworks of Earth systems and instructional design: Journal of Geoscience Education, 65: 473-489.

Stillings, N. 2012. Complex systems in the geosciences and in geoscience learning, In Kastens, K., and Manduca, C., eds., Earth and Mind II: A Synthesis of Research on Thinking and Learning in the Geosciences. p. 97-111.

The College Board. 2016. AP environmental science course overview. Available at https://apstudent.collegeboard.org/apcourse/ap-environmental-science (accessed 30 August 2016).

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 2015. Occupational outlook handbook: Geoscientists. Available at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/geoscientists.htm#tab-3 (accessed 30 August 2016).


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