Nicole LaDue

Geology and Environmental Geosciences

Northern Illinois University

My research incorporates methods from psychology and education research to study how students learn in the geosciences. Most of my current work targets students at the introductory level to better understand how spatial thinking and visual representations influence their understanding. Additionally, I am involved with projects on interest development and student recruitment into the geosciences.

Spatial Thinking and Geocognition

Spatial thinking involves how people mentally manipulate information. This skill is related to success in science fields, and particularly in geology. There is mounting evidence that while some students come to college with strong spatial thinking skills, there are ways to train this skill. I am currently investigating how these skills relate to problem solving with common geoscience visuals.

Visuals in Science Education

The geosciences rely heavily on a variety of visual representations (such as maps, graphs, diagrams). Some students may struggle with the visuals presented in their geology class. I am currently running a study using eye-tracking and interviews to understand how introductory students use geologic cross-section diagrams to solve problems involving the principles of stratigraphy.

Recruitment and Retention

Sadly, the geosciences are among the least diverse of all STEM fields. One approach to understanding this issue is to investigate how people develop an interest in the geosciences. Past work has involved surveying and interviewing geoscientists about the origin of their interest in geology and the types of out-of-school activities that may spark or foster their interest. Projects related to interest and factors influencing recruitment into the geosciences are currently in development.

Workshop Participant, Webinar Participant, Website Contributor

Website Content Contributions

Activities (6)

Modeling Asperities with Spaghetti part of Teach the Earth:Teaching Activities
This activity uses a physical model to facilitate students' understanding of elastic deformation of rocks and the episodic nature of motion on a fault, which leads to earthquakes and aftershocks.

On the Cutting Edge Exemplary Collection This activity is part of the On the Cutting Edge Exemplary Teaching Activities collection.
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Scaffolding Temporal Reasoning with Geologic Timelines part of Teach the Earth:Teaching Activities
This 30 minute activity engages students in ordering and spacing geologic history events on a meter stick. Students engage in an inquiry cycle, individually first, then with a partner before receiving feedback on ...

Groundwater Contamination Prediction part of GET Spatial Learning:Teaching Activities
Formative assessment questions using a classroom response system ("clickers") can be used to reveal students' spatial understanding. Students are shown this diagram and told, "A storm event ...

Lateral Continuity part of GET Spatial Learning:Teaching Activities
Formative assessment questions using a classroom response system ("clickers") can be used to reveal students' spatial understanding. Students are shown this diagram and instructed to click in the ...

Hotspot Prediction part of GET Spatial Learning:Teaching Activities
Formative assessment questions using a classroom response system ("clickers") can be used to reveal students' spatial understanding. Students are shown this diagram and told, "The tectonic ...

River Profile Prediction part of GET Spatial Learning:Teaching Activities
Formative assessment questions using a classroom response system ("clickers") can be used to reveal students' spatial understanding. Students are shown this diagram and told to "Click on line A ...

Essay (1)

Nicole LaDue part of Metacognition:Workshop 08:Participant Essays
Encouraging Metacognition in the K-12 Environment Nicole LaDue, National Science Foundation The K-12 public education system heavily emphasizes student knowledge but not always student learning and thinking. For ...

Conference Presentations (3)

The ENGAGE Workshop: Encouraging Networks between Geoscience and Geoscience Education part of Rendezvous 2015:Program:Abstracts
The geoscience education community has made great strides in the study of teaching and learning at the undergraduate level, particularly with respect to solid earth geology. Nevertheless, the 2012 National ...

A Pilot Study to Assess Chemistry Education in the Geosciences part of Earth Educators Rendezvous:Rendezvous 2019:Program:Poster Sessions:Wednesday
It is well established that chemistry is an integral discipline underlying many scientific concepts. However, chemistry also presents challenges and misconceptions that act as barriers for many students (Birk & ...

Geo-Needs: A Synthesized Ideal Model for Broadening Participation in the Geosciences at Two-Year and Minority-Serving Institutions part of Earth Educators Rendezvous:Previous Rendezvous:Rendezvous 2016:Program:Poster Sessions:Thursday
Employment opportunities in the geosciences are rapidly expanding, yet underrepresented minorities continue to make up ~8% of the geoscience-related workforce. Our project focuses specifically on the lack of ...

Other Contribution (1)

Visuospatial Ability and Geologic Mapping: Experts and Novices in the Field part of Structural Geology:2014 Structure and Tectonics Forum Abstracts
Nicole LaDue, Northern Illinois University Heather Petcovic, Western Michigan University Julie Libarkin, Michigan State University D. Zachary Hambrick, Michigan State University Kathleen Baker, Western Michigan ...