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Educating for "Sapience"

Posted: Sep 8 2013 by Kim Kastens
Topics: Evolution, Community, Solving Societal Problems, Metacognition, Systems Thinking

I've recently been digging into the writings of George Mobus on the subject of "Sapience." Mobus begins by asking himself and his readers "If we are such a clever species, why is the world the way it is, and heading in such a bad direction?"

His answer is that most humans, even very intelligent and clever ones, have too little "sapience."

"Sapience" is Mobus' term for a human attribute that is a combination of judgement (based on life experiences), moral sense (primarily altruism, thinking about the welfare of the group as well as of yourself), taking a long view of the future (strategic perspective), and systems perspective. He thinks that sapience is present in all humans, but very unevenly distributed with a few people having a lot and most people having little. More

Is the Fourth Paradigm Really New?

Posted: Oct 20 2012 by Kim Kastens
Topics: Community, Spatial Thinking, Interpretation/Inference, History of Geosciences

Cover of Fourth Paradigm I have a long-standing interest in the use of data in education, so I've been reading with interest several articles and a book concerned with the so-called "Fourth Paradigm" of science, in which insights are wrested from vast troves of existing data. The Fourth Paradigm is envisioned as a new method of pushing forward the frontiers of knowledge, enabled by new technologies for gathering, manipulating, analyzing and displaying data. The term seems to have originated with Jim Gray, a Technical Fellow and visionary at Microsoft's eScience group, who was lost at sea in 2007. The first three paradigms, in this view, would be empirical observation and experimentation, analytical or theoretical approaches, and computational science or simulation. Earth and Environmental Sciences are well represented in the book, with essays on data-rich ecological science, ocean science, and space science.

I am finding these readings very stimulating and worthwhile. But I question whether this way of making meaning from the complexity of nature is really so new. More

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Faculty Professional Development by means of Case Based Reasoning

Posted: Nov 22 2011 by Kim Kastens
Topics: Collaboration, Metacognition, Community

photo from SERC Workshop
Small group discussion at SERC Complex Earth sysetms workshop
I've now been to five workshops in the "On the Cutting Edge" series of professional development workshops for college geoscience faculty (this one, and this, and this, and this, and this). I've been amazed and somewhat bemused at how well they work. People show up, they contribute genuinely good teaching ideas, they ask seriously probing questions of the expert speakers, new ideas get generated through small group discussion, and then people go home and actually make use of ideas from the workshop in their teaching practice. I'm not the only person who really likes these workshops: as of about a year and half ago, 1400 geoscience faculty from more than 450 geoscience departments had participated in Cutting Edge workshops (Manduca, et al, 2010).

In contrast, many of my colleagues concerned with the quality of science education in other disciplines moan and groan about how hard it is to get college faculty to pay attention to research on learning or to change their teaching practice. So how–by what mechanism–does the Cutting Edge approach work? Here's an idea. More

What could the President do?

Posted: Jan 30 2011 by Cathy Manduca
Topics: Community, Collaboration
Earlier this month I was invited to attend a planning meeting for PCAST, the President's advisors on science and technology. They (via a subcommittee) are gearing up to write a report on STEM higher education, which will be a companion to their excellent piece on STEM K-12 education (my favorite parts of this are the emphasis on preparation and inspiration together, and the reminder that we do need to worry about high-achieving students). You can find the report here by scrolling down to K-12 STEM Education report.

By way of introduction at the meeting, we were asked to provide three minutes of advice to the President as to how he could help improve STEM higher education and in particular the preparation of students for the STEM workforce. Here is my response. There were lots of people at the meeting who could speak to the general question, so I spoke from the point of view of helping faculty be better teachers. More

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John Diebold: Implementor Extraordinaire

Posted: Jul 6 2010 by Kim Kastens
Topics: History of Geosciences, Community, Field-Based Learning
Photo of John DieboldJohn Diebold at the beginning of his career, 1967 <image info>
Geosciences lost a true original when John Diebold died on July 1, 2010. John's pathway into and through science was convoluted. He was a local boy, from Nyack, who "ran away to sea" on an early Lamont-Doherty research vessel. For decades, he was the practical brains behind the seismic system on Lamont's world-ranging research vessels, most recently the R/V Marcus Langesth. He sailed on three Lamont ships, plus 16 other research vessels, including a staggering 26 legs as Chief or Co-Chief Scientist. Interspersed among various hands-on roles at sea and around the Lamont Machine Shop, he patched together an academic record, first a bachelor's degree, then a PhD. He managed to span the breadth of seagoing science, from the greasiest on-deck repair job, through design of software to turn data into insights, to interpretation of earth processes from novel observations.

In the context of Earth & Mind, John's death has gotten me to thinking about how many different talents are needed to push back the frontiers of knowledge in geosciences...and to wondering whether we are recruiting and fostering the necessary range of talents in the next generation. More