How to Teach with Geoclick Questions

Initial Publication Date: June 29, 2021

Developing GeoClick Questions

All of the GeoClick questions that are currently hosted in the Teach the Earth portal is substantially revised from its original form. The researchers received feedback from colleagues and from students regarding the importance of the concept for their teaching, the clarity of the image, and the language in the question stem. We share this because although it seems simple on the surface, developing a quality GeoClick question is an involved process. With feedback from students and colleagues, one quickly learns that interpretations of word choices or diagram features are highly variable. Below we describe the process we used to assist geoscience instructions in developing GeoClick questions.

  1. Identify a conceptual challenge. There are several review articles (e.g., Cheek, 2010; Francek, 2013) with inventories many of the common research-documented conceptual challenges in the geosciences as well as lists generated based on instructor wisdom.
  2. Identify a simple and clear image. Geoscientists often use complex visuals to convey three-dimensional and temporal processes. Additionally, interpreting photographs of Earth's features and modifying the axes of graphical representations are common practice. When using diagrams, consider following principles of good design to make the main point as salient as possible. Remember that diagrams are visual analogies. There is a wealth of research suggesting that instructors should facilitate mapping the deeper meaning rather than surface attributes of analogies to help students learn (Jee et al., 2010; Kurtz et al., 2001).
  3. Craft a question stem.It may take multiple iterations with your classes to find simple wording that is clear for students to understand.
    • Do's: Start by considering what predictions students could make by responding with a click on the diagram. For example, they could predict the direction of motion on a fault based on the fault type. Additionally, consider a question that engages students in retrodiction (e.g., for lateral continuity, which layer used to be continuous with the layer labeled with a dot?), or a judgement of spatial scale or rate (e.g., location on a geologic time line or how far something would travel given a quantity of time.
    • Don'ts: Avoid questions that simply target feature identification, since this only requires low-level recall. Avoid questions that probe solutions to problems that have multiple steps.
  4. Scaffolding. Consider whether there is value in asking a lower level question prior to asking the GeoClick question to help scaffold students to the visual. In some cases, the concept we want to target is high level so a simple lower level question (e.g., click on the oldest caldera in the hot spot chain) can ensure students are oriented to the diagram before asking a complex question.
  5. Peer review. Engage with your colleagues to get their feedback on the question stem and the diagram. Take their advice! If they get different meaning from the question or diagram, your students likely will also!
  6. Implementation.Try it! Ideally, these questions will be most effective in large enrollment classes where one-on-one interaction between instructor and student is a barrier. Get student feedback on what was confusing about the question.
  7. Revision. Adjust wording and/or change the diagram.
  8. Implementation. Try again! As you polish the question and diagram to target the important concept, you will get higher quality information from your students.
  9. Share with the community. Once you have developed a good GeoClick question, share it! Submit it for consideration to be included in NAGT's Teach the Earth.

Teaching with GeoClick questions

The best practices associated with implementing GeoClick questions in the classroom are similar to the early research by McConnell's work on ConcepTests. Chunk instruction into short (<15 minute) segments. Pause and administer 1-5 formative assessment questions based on what you previously taught. If only 35-70% of students achieve the correct answer (Crouch & Mazur, 2001), engage students in discussing the question and subsequently re-open responding.In the case of GeoClick questions, reveal the platform-generated heat map to students so they can discuss most common student responses in pairs or triads. Post the question again and have students re-vote. They should come to greater consensus around the correct response. However, it is worthwhile to explain why the common incorrect response is not correct.


Cheek, K. A. (2010). Commentary: A summary and analysis of twenty-seven years of geoscience conceptions research. Journal of Geoscience Education, 58(3), 122-134.

Crouch, C. H., & Mazur, E. (2001). Peer instruction: Ten years of experience and results. American journal of physics, 69(9), 970-977.

Francek, M. (2013). A compilation and review of over 500 geoscience misconceptions. International Journal of Science Education, 35(1), 31-64.

Jee, B. D., Uttal, D. H., Gentner, D., Manduca, C., Shipley, T. F., Tikoff, B., ... & Sageman, B. (2010). Commentary: Analogical thinking in geoscience education. Journal of Geoscience Education, 58(1), 2-13.

Kurtz, K. J., Miao, C. H., & Gentner, D. (2001). Learning by analogical bootstrapping. The Journal of the Learning Sciences, 10(4), 417-446.