Why Teach with GeoClick Questions

Initial Publication Date: June 29, 2021

Using GeoClick questions engages students in active learning (cognitive & behavioral engagement, LaDue et al., 2021) using Technology-Enhanced Formative Assessment (Beatty and Gerace, 2009).

Spatial reasoning is important for understanding in the Geosciences

Spatial reasoning is the process of mentally manipulating visual information (Newcombe & Shipley, 2015). Spatial reasoning is trainable (Gold et al., 2018; Hannula, 2019) but may be a barrier for some students (Uttal et al., 2013). Several studies have defined the types of spatial reasoning that are valuable in the geosciences (Ault, 1998; Cheek et al., 2017; Kastens & Ishikawa, 2006; Newcombe & Shipley, 2015). Strategies to engage students in spatial reasoning about geoscience phenomena include: gesturing (Atit et al., 2015; Van Boening & Riggs, 2020), sketching (Ormand et al., 2017; Libarkin, 2006), etc. The learning mechanism involved in this process is the cycle of prediction and feedback that comes from externalizing one's mental representation of a concept and receiving feedback about any errors present (James et al., 2021; Resnick et al., 2017a). One study utilizing clickers to engage students in reasoning with the Geologic Time Scale revealed the cycle of prediction and feedback using clickers improved exam score (Resnick et al., 2017a) and accuracy for estimating magnitudes (Resnick et al., 2017b). GeoClick questions are particularly good at engaging students in spatial integration, scalar relationships, and spatial reference frame judgements (LaDue & Shipley, 2018; 2020).

GeoClick questions target conceptual challenges

Relative to other disciplines, conceptual understanding in the geosciences is understudied (National Research Council, 2012). Reviews of geoscience conceptions reveal a bias in the literature toward geology concepts (Cheek, 2010; Francek, 2013) with fewer studies focusing on surface processes (Sexton, 2012) and water in the Earth's system (LaDue et al., 2021). In the design process for GeoClick questions, we begin by considering research-documented conceptual challenges as well as instructor wisdom about barriers to student understanding. For example, students struggle to reason about geologic events due to the large scale of geologic time. Therefore, we created a question to engage students in making predictions about geologic events.

Question Prompt: Click on the line where you expect dinosaurs appeared on Earth.

Student Responses: Before and after instruction, students overestimate how long before present day dinosaurs appeared on Earth.



Given that temporal reasoning about geologic events is so challenging, we suggest using the GeoClick questions for formative assessment coupled with an activity, such as this one, to engage students in building a conceptual model of geologic time.


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