AIPG Luncheon Speaker - 4
December 2012 - Dr. Scott Clark - UW Eau Claire
tectonics: A well-known theory that isn't so well known.
Knowledge of the key principles of the theory of plate tectonic is fundamental
to understanding how the Earth works. With that in mind, I have asked:
How well do geoscience novices and experts understand basic aspects of
plate tectonics? In this seminar, Iwill address this question by presenting
an analysis of eye-tracking data and questionnaires completed by people
with a wide range of geoscience backgrounds. As might be expected, geoscience
novices hold a number of alternative conceptions (AKA misconceptions)
after their first college-level exposure to plate tectonics. Confusion
is common on topics such as the fate of subducting plates, directions
that plates move relative to one another, causes of melting, state of
matter of the mantle, and how transform boundaries work. What might be
surprising is how far into the expert realm many of these alternative
conceptions can be retained. The findings of this study reveal how these
misconceptions are encouraged by popular plate-tectonic images and by
our teaching practices. In so doing, they also point to how we can reduce
the extent of plate-tectonic misconceptions that are held by geoscientists.
Scott K. Clark is an Assistant Professor of Geology at the University
of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. He earned his B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. degrees from
The Universities of Kansas, Iowa, and Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, respectively.
His Ph.D. research was in the field of stable isotope geochemistry. While
at The University of Illinois, he spent one year working with 5th-graders
in southern IL, through a National Science Foundation GK-12 Teaching Fellowship.
He found it rather amazing to see elementary students learning basic geoscience
concepts as easily as many college-levelstudents. That experience piqued
his interest in how people learn about Earth and Earth processes, and
led him to a post-doctoral research program in Julie Libarkin's Geocognition
lab at Michigan State University. Geocognition is a relatively new field
that applies cognitive science methodologies to investigations of how
people perceive and interpret the Earth and Earth phenomena. Beyond being
interested in students' alternative conceptions about Earth and Earth
processes, and the persistence of those conceptions across the expert-novice
continuum, he is also actively studying how scientific concepts are communicated
by instructors and the news media.
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