What are GeoClick Questions?

Initial Publication Date: June 29, 2021

GeoClick questions are the name given to formative assessment questions that engage students in selecting a point on a diagram, photo, graph or other visual.

GeoClick questions engage students in formative assessment

GeoClick questions help instructors to divide instruction into short segments and assess in real time using classroom response systems whether students understand the most important concepts. Similar to ConceptTests, GeoClick questions are conceptual and should not rely simply on recall of definitions, or in this case identification of diagram features. The questions should focus on making predictions that reveal their understanding of geologic processes.

Unlike other techniques, GeoClick questions exploit Smart technology that enables students to click on their device screen to identify a point on a geoscience visual (e.g., diagram, graph, photo) to respond. Many platforms have a response option for clicking on visuals (e.g., click-on-target in Top Hat, clickable image in PollEverywhere). Each platform has a unique approach to scoring of these questions, which can be a barrier for use in online quizzes or exams. During the course of synchronous instruction, engaging students in responding and then revealing the overall pattern of student responses provides timely feedback for the instructor to target re-teaching efforts appropriately and for students to recognize their own errors.

GeoClick questions engage students in spatial reasoning

GeoClick questions should target conceptual understanding of dynamic geoscience processes and engage students in making predictions about those processes. Geoscience processes that involve movement (e.g., plate motion, faulting, atmospheric convection) or concepts of scale related to space (e.g., rates of contaminant transport) or time (e.g. spacing of events in geologic time), are conceptually challenging for students. Geoscience education research shows that sketching and gesturing are successful approaches for revealing students' spatial reasoning about geoscience concepts. However, this can be instructionally time consuming and grading intensive. For large enrollment classes, GeoClick questions are open-ended, requiring students to engage in making predictions, and yield a heat map of the distribution of students' responses. The heat maps are generated instantly by the platform and are easily understood so an instructor can gauge if there is consensus among the students on a particular correct answer or, alternatively, common incorrect answers. GeoClick questions rapidly revealstudents' conceptual understanding of spatial processes.

One clear example of the value of GeoClick questions involves geologic hot spots. Hot spots are locations where a volcano occurs at the surface that, unlike most volcanic activity, is not associated with plate boundary processes. For hot spots, the heat source generating melt occurs deep within Earth's mantle and remains stationary relative to the Earth as surface-level tectonic plates move over the location. This causes the familiar pattern of volcanic islands we see in Hawaii, as well as other locations. The spatial reasoning challenge associated with hot spots is recognizing that the frame of reference for the volcano is independent of tectonic plate motion. The GeoClick question we developed to address this spatial concept is associated with the diagram below.

Question: The North American tectonic plate moved southwest over the Yellowstone hot spot (location X). If the plate started moving north, click where the next volcanic caldera will form.

Solution: Since the Yellowstone hot spot is sourced deep in the mantle below the North American tectonic plate, the plate will move over the hot spot. If the plate moves north, which is a change from the initial pattern of plate motion, the next hot spot will form to the south of location X.

Below is a heat map generated in Top Hat displaying the distribution of student responses before instruction and at the end of the course. The heatmap shows pre-instruction student responses are clustered north and south of the current location X. At the end of the course there remains a large group of students that have switched to the correct location, which is south of location X, but the conceptual error that the next caldera will be north of the current location X persists.