Overcoming Barriers to Learning in the Geosciences

Wednesday 20th January 2010

Earth Imaging Lab, School of Geography, Earth & Environmental Sciences, Aston Webb building, University of Birmingham

The GEES Subject Centre held a one-day event on learning and teaching in the geosciences with a specific focus on overcoming barriers to student learning. This included misconceptions, threshold concepts and areas of cognitive difficulty such as geological time, spatial thinking (2D-3D-4D) and complex / systems thinking.

Sessions included:

Keynote presentation: Dr Heather Petcovic, Assistant Professor, Earth Science Education, Western Michigan University and PI of the collaborative research project "Learning Across the Expert-Novice Continuum: Cognition in the Geosciences" Heather’s geology research program considers feeder dikes to flood basalts of the Columbia River Large Igneous Province through a combined field, analytical, and numerical modelling approach. Her geoscience education research focuses on the area of "geocognition" - specifically, toward understanding the knowledge and skills that geoscientists use when working on complex, field-based problems. She studies geoscientists engaged in field work across the spectrum from beginning students (novices) to professionals (experts), in order to determine how geological knowledge develops through training and practice. Ultimately, this research should lead to theoretical models of geological cognition, and to practical ideas for improved field-based instruction.


(with links to abstracts and PowerPoint presentations)

0900 - 0930 Coffee & Registration

0930 - 1000 Introduction and Discussion

1000 - 1120 Parallel Sessions

Session 1:

Session 2:

1120 - 1150 Coffee / Posters

1150 - 1240 Keynote

Learning Across the Expert-Novice Continuum: Cognition in the Geosciences - Heather Petcovic, Department of Geosciences and The Mallinson Institute for Science Education, Western Michigan University

1240- 1330 Lunch / Posters

1330 - 1350 Earth Imaging Lab Demonstration

1400 - 150 Parallel Sessions

Session 3:

Session 4:

1500 - 1530 Closing Discussion

1530 - 1600 Coffee & Close / Posters

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Alternative Conceptions and the Geoscience Concept Inventory

Heather L. Petcovic, Western Michigan University. Powerpoint Presentation (3.26mb)

Effective instruction hinges in part on understanding what prior knowledge students bring to the classroom, and on evaluating how, or if, this knowledge changes during instruction. Research across many disciplines in science education has demonstrated that students of all levels hold non-scientific to partially scientific ideas about many natural phenomena. These ideas, often called misconceptions or alternative conceptions, are difficult to change and thus can prove to be powerful barriers to student learning correct scientific concepts. Although many instructors recognize the importance of alternative conceptions in learning, it is not always easy to ascertain what students know nor is it easy to determine if student ideas have changed in response to teaching. If the goal of instruction is to have students leave a course with greater and more correct conceptual understanding, tools are needed to assess this.

Alternative conceptions are most often studied by qualitative methods such as open-ended surveys, diagrams, and interviews. However, these methods have limited utility in classroom situations, where more rapid methods of diagnosing students’ conceptions are needed. To address this need, J. Libarkin and S. Anderson developed the Geoscience Concept Inventory (GCI), a multiple-choice instrument in which correct and incorrect responses were derived from actual student responses to open-ended questions covering a range of geoscience content. The GCI has been validated for use with introductory-level college undergraduates. We have used a 15-item GCI to examine pre-instruction geoscience conceptual knowledge held by preservice elementary (grade K-8) teachers, and to assess changes in conceptual knowledge as these future teachers complete a geocience course. Although significant gains were observed for some GCI items, many alternative conceptions persisted despite our instructional efforts.

A Virtual Petrological Microscope: enhancing learning of optical microscopy

Simon Kelley, Mahesh Anand, Andy Tindle, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Open University, Peter Whalley, Knowledge Media Institute, Open University

Student studies of rocks and thin sections in the laboratory are a crucial aspect of the practical training offered in most Geoscience degrees, but they are often time constrained, limited by the number of available high quality microscopes and available laboratory time. We have developed a high quality on-line virtual microscope that both enhances and enriches the learning experience. The focus of petrological microscope study is not primarily related to learning facts but is concerned with learning how to discriminate and classify within the paradigms of the discipline. The problems of teaching with complex visual materials, in effect of teaching learners 'how to see' from the scientific perspective of a particular discipline, are quite general. For this reason we have focussed on the viewing and manipulation of thin section images rather than attempting to reproduce a system that resembled a physical microscope.

The microscope runs in a browser window and allows students to pan around the thin sections (held as files totalling around 1Gb per slide on a remote server); zoom in and out, change from plane polarised light to cross polarised light conditions; and also study the changing mineral pleochroism and birefringence in rotating views of selected 'hot spots'. The microscope includes tools such as hyper-linked descriptive teaching text, overlay labelling on the slides, location by XY coordinates and distance measurement tools. A shared version and an ipod version are also under development.

Spatial learning at a distance: how can GIS contribute?

Tom Argles, Department of Earth & Environmental Sciences, Open University

Acquiring or refining the skills of spatial thinking is a critical part of any geoscience student’s learning journey. Within the constraints of distance education, this challenging step can become insurmountable. The reduced student access to face-to-face teaching, coupled with the lower level of field experience provision typical of distance learning models, demands an innovative approach to foster spatial thinking. Fortunately, the development of GIS (Geographic Information System) technology, together with a proliferation of formats and modes for presenting geospatial data in 2-, 3- and 4-D, offers opportunities to deliver engaging learning materials that will encourage spatial visualisation. The challenge for a distance teaching institution such as the Open University is to adopt and adapt formats for the learning materials that work for a diverse student cohort with a correspondingly diverse range of hardware.

This presentation will introduce some teaching materials developed using ArcGIS software and delivered to distance learning students on DVD in a variety of formats. The choice of format was subject to a number of constraints, not least of which was financial (i.e. using software already licensed to the university, or freeware such as Adobe Acrobat Reader). Considerable effort was invested in distilling the complex, rich GIS data into simple materials presented in familiar modes such as web browsers with Flash movies, or Acrobat Reader. However, the main driver for chosen formats was pedagogical considerations: for instance, whether a movie animation was more appropriate to illustrate a particular concept than, say, a 3-D model or layered pdf file.

Overcoming the barriers to the use of journal articles within the geosciences

Richard I. Waller & Peter G. Knight, School of Physical & Geographical Sciences, Keele University. Powerpoint Presentation (1.82Mb)

Journal articles provide a rich source of information for students. They offer an invaluable insight into ongoing research activities, new discoveries and active debates. As such they can inform, challenge and surprise. However, geoscience students are often reluctant to engage with journal literature, a perception supported by citation analyses that suggest undergraduate use of journal articles is declining in favour of more accessible sources such as textbooks and internet resources.

This presentation highlights the key findings of an action research project that examined the barriers to student engagement with journals and the extent to which these can be overcome by additional training and support. Questionnaire surveys revealed a variety of barriers including the complex nature of the content, the difficulty finding relevant articles, the time commitment associated with their use and access problems. The surveys also highlighted potential ways in which these barriers might be overcome, including improved training in the use of online journals and the use of group discussion sessions to improve their confidence. Consequently, a step-by-step guide on how to find relevant literature and a series of tutorial sessions were devised in an attempt to enhance their use of journal literature. Their effectiveness was tested through the use of citation analyses and discussion groups, the results of which led to four key recommendations including: (1) the introduction of journals in year 1, (2) the provision of greater support and guidance, (3) improved journal access and (4) the greater use of assessments.

Educational background and undergraduate student geoscience pre-conceptions

Roger Trend, University of Oxford, Department of Education, Don Porcelli, University of Oxford, Department of Earth Sciences

The ongoing research reported here as provisional findings builds on previous work relating to geoscience conceptualisation (including deep time), student educational choice trajectories and the huge field of mis- and pre-conceptions. The small empirical study relates to expressed perceptions of undergraduate students in one UK university Earth science department. The range of geoscience perceptions brought by incoming first year students is examined alongside their educational choices and career aspirations and those of established students. With reference to barriers to geoscience learning, the concept of a threshold concept is visited briefly, with some challenges to this emerging body of theory and, therefore, to the claimed likely educational value of such a concept.

3D Models for Teaching

Emma Ward, British Geological Survey

The 3D subsurface viewer has great potential as a teaching resource for universities as it allows the student to visualise and interrogate UK geology and so assists the teaching of foundation geological concepts.

A problem shared by many geoscience students is being able to form a mental picture of 3D/4D structures and processes from 2D field, map and GIS outputs. Today’s earth science students can potentially utilise a variety of skills and processes during their learning experience including the application of schema’s, spatial thinking, image construction, detecting patterns, memorising figures, mental manipulation and interpretation, making predictions and deducing the orientation of themselves and the rocks. These spatial thinking strategies can be used as a shortcut or metaphor to think about processes and properties whist helping the student to recognise pre-learnt geological principles in the field and to convert what they see at the surface (in 2D) into a picture of what is going on at depth (in 3D).

Although 3D geological models have been used in teaching as early as 1841, recent developments in 3D geological modelling methods and visualisation at the British Geological Survey (BGS) may revolutionise the teaching of Geosciences. The Subsurface Viewer is a tool that combines the traditional elements of geological communication and provides the spatial understanding described above by putting everything into a real 3D context.

Using 'preflights' to aid students’ appreciation of ‘troublesome knowledge’ and 'sticking points'

Brian Whalley, School of Geography, Archaeology and Palaeoecology, Queens University Belfast

The idea of a ‘preflight’ ('pre-flight check' or ‘warm up’) comes from the work of Novak et al. (1999). Students are set a small task before they come to a class or practical and check their knowledge base or procedures before embarking on the ‘flight’; a lecture or practical class (Whalley and Taylor, 2008). Students submit a response before the event. This is more than the tutor checking that students know a concept, for instance what you might have identified as 'troublesome knowledge' (Bradbeer, 2005). Students themselves actively experience the checking procedure. Rather than say, 'we shall use the concept of stress in the lecture next week, please look at the lecture notes in advance' (which, of course is rarely done), the task is set in a form such as 'Please mail me a three-line definition of stress, strain and pressure'. The very fact that e-mails follow indicates that the students have done the preflight and at least started to tackle the troublesome knowledge. Although usually considered as ‘e-learning’ the preflight concept can be used as feed-forward and as a mini-test, or lecture reinforcement with the use of audience/personal response systems or 'CommuniCubes (Bostock et al., 2006). A preflight might also be related to a practical class and set ahead of the activity to start students on their way. The accomplishment of the preflight can be rewarded by marks or just seen to be accomplished. The concept will be explained further with examples.

Embedding Enterprise into Geological Mapping

Spendlove, S. J., Stevenson, C. T., & Smith, M. P., School of Geography, Earth & Environmental Sciences, University of Birmingham

We have investigated the educational potential of an industry developed software package used by Geology undergraduates to aid in cross section interpretation for mapping projects. This study was funded internally by the University of Birmingham Learning Development Unit (Ecubed initiative) and carried out in conjunction with Midland Valley Exploration’s Field Mapping Initiative. We have used structural modelliong software (Move2008), Adobe Illustrator and ArcGIS in the course of this study with the aim of integrating these packages into standard undergraduate work.

A field based cross section restoration and validation exercise was developed for second year students. A cliff section from Crackington Haven, Cornwall, was photographed and students asked to interpret the section and then use Move2008 to test their interpretation. The presentation includes a poster outlining the geology of the section and the student exercise, a sample student centric guide to using the software and a computer based interactive example of the cross section restoration.

What is the Purpose of Fieldwork? Changes in Undergraduate Conceptions Over a Three-Year Degree Program

Alison Stokes, Experiential Learning Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL), University of Plymouth

A longitudinal study undertaken at a single UK university aimed to identify geoscience students’ conceptions of the purpose of fieldwork, and to investigate whether these conceptions changed as students gained field experience and progressed from novice to expert geoscientist. Data were collected using a qualitative survey in which students on four geoscience-related degree programs provided a written response to the question “what is the purpose of fieldwork”. Qualitative analysis of the students’ responses revealed six distinct conceptions of fieldwork, five of which persisted from the beginning to the end of the degree programs. This range of conceptions could be further classified into two distinct groups: ‘fragmented’ conceptions focused on specific aspects of fieldwork or on learning aims, while ‘cohesive’ conceptions were more integrated and considered fieldwork in its wider context. Academic geoscience faculty were also surveyed and found to express a similar range of conceptions to the students. On quantifying the data, however, we identified some interesting variations a) as students progressed through their degree programs, and b) in relation to academic faculty. Both students and faculty most commonly conceptualized the purpose of fieldwork in terms of a way or place of learning, the learning and applying of methods and skills, and a way of understanding or making sense of the world. As students progressed, they were increasingly likely to express cohesive conceptions, and less likely to express fragmented conceptions, while the majority of faculty were found to hold ‘mixed’ conceptions. Although there is some evidence that students’ conceptions change with increasing expertise, an apparent ‘mismatch’ between student and faculty conceptions relating to the learning and application of skills, may have important implications for the design and delivery of undergraduate fieldwork.

Elicitation of a Geological Model: based on intuition or solid principles?

Euan Macrae, Zoe Shipton, University of Glasgow. PDF (6.75Mb)

In an interpretation experiment, Bond et al. (2007 & 2008) showed that a wide range of geological concepts can be applied to a single seismic dataset, and that using multiple interpretations maximises creativity and allows a range of potential models to be captured for a dataset. However, when presented with multiple models do geoscientists pick the same model as being the best choice? Is it the optimum model? And what is their choice based on? In the experiment presented geoscientists were asked to choose the best model from five different, but plausible, geological models created from a dataset. The participants then ranked the models for different criteria, such as: ‘is the model based on solid geological principles?’, and ‘does it capture the key geological elements?’ In a further questionnaire some of the participants were asked to explain what they thought was meant by each of the criteria and to give examples for each of the five models. The participants did tend to choose the same model as being the most plausible, but how did they arrive at the same decision? And what criteria did they use? This poster

summarises the lessons learnt from the experiment and an analysis of how much conceptual or ‘familiar’ models are relied on rather than solid principals in model choice. Understanding how models are chosen and the use of conceptual knowledge as opposed to deductive reasoning has implications for the teaching of interpretation and analysis of geological data.

Project CoReflect: Digital support for Inquiry, Collaboration, and Reflection on Socio-Scientific Debates

Cally Oldershaw, Association for Science Education

Project CoReflect ( is a three year (2008-2011) research program, funded by the European Commission, under the FP7 Science in Society program. Bringing together eight diverse and multi-disciplinary teams from seven European states, the project members seek to promote evidence-based practice in science teaching and learning, by collaborating to iteratively design, enact, critique, and research project- and problem-based innovative inquiry learning environments. These environments, which will be hosted on the STOCHASMOS web-based teaching and learning platform, will couple data-rich scientific rigor with the flexibility and easy modifiability that is needed for widespread adoption and use.

KEYNOTE: Learning Across the Expert-Novice Continuum: Cognition in the Geosciences

Heather L. Petcovic, Western Michigan University

PowerPoint presentation (5.4Mb)

What does it mean to be an expert geoscientist? How can we best help students to transition from novice (college undergraduate) to expert (professional) geologist? A crucial gap exists between research on basic cognitive processes involved in complex geoscience activities and efforts to improve teaching practice. One way to close this gap is to examine how “geocognition,” the cognitive processes that underlie geological thinking and skills, changes from novice to expert. Drawing from research in science education and cognitive science, we investigate several aspects of expert-novice cognition in the geosciences: domain-specific content knowledge, spatial ability, working memory capacity, novelty space, and problem-solving in the field.

Volunteers (10 novices, 9 intermediates, and 10 experts) completed written and computer measures plus a 1-day bedrock mapping task in the Rocky Mountains, Montana, USA. Data collected from participants included: (1) an experience survey, for placement along the expert-novice continuum; (2) the Geoscience Concept Inventory, to measure geology content knowledge; (3) two tests from the ETS Toolkit and the Space Relations Test, to measure general (non-geologic) spatial ability; (4) Matrix Span and Arrow Span tasks, to assess general working memory capacity; (5) a block diagram test, to measure geologic working memory capacity; (6) a novelty space survey, to assess comfort and preparation for field work; (7) GPS tracks and maps produced during the mapping task, to assess field problem-solving skills; and (8) qualitative interview and audio log data, to probe thinking in the field.

Preliminary examination of these data reveals that in comparison to other participants, experts have greater geology content knowledge, greater geologic working memory capacity, and report greater comfort in the field. However, we found only weak correlations between spatial ability and expertise, contrary to assumptions that general spatial ability is fundamental to geologic ability. Both experts and novices made correct maps; the most successful mappers display more purposeful motion in the field, and are more metacognitive during field mapping. This study is the first in a series of planned experiments working towards development of a research-based model of geoscientific expertise.

Using Gigapan and Photosynth in Geology Teaching

Ian Stimpson, Ralf Gertisser, Michael Montenari & Brian O'Driscoll, Keele University

PowerPoint Presentation (16MB)

An increasing proportion of geology (and other fieldwork related discipline) students are mobility impaired. This is partially due to the widening access agenda and the acceptance of increased numbers of students with severe medical disabilities. The SENDA and QAA expect us to provide alternative experiences where comparable opportunities are available which satisfy the learning outcomes. In order to provide this alternative experience we need to mimic, as much as possible, the ways in which students observe and learn from geology in the field by viewing the outcrops at different scales and from different perspectives. Whilst a series of still images at different distances could be taken the student needs to be able to decide where to look in detail and 'move around' the outcrop.

The Gigapan project is a website and supporting software that allows very high resolution megapixel photographic images to be combined to make gigapixel panoramas which can then be explored at many scales by zooming and panning. Photosynth is a similar project where a number of different digital photographs are combined into a 3D model in which the user can move around. These resources could also be used for non-impaired students where circumstances such as bad weather prevents the whole cohort from visiting a key exposure on the field course. It
would also enable us to 'visit' exposures that are inaccessible due to being unable to within walking distance of important localities.

Peer Assisted Experiential Learning (PAEL) in extending fieldwork practice in the Earth Sciences

Mark Anderson, Meriel FitzPatrick & Jason Truscott, School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Plymouth. Powerpoint (7.21Mb)

Traditional approaches to developing students practical (applied) skills (most especially, but not exclusively, fieldwork) make significant demands on resources, particularly staff time. Extending opportunities for experiential learning through independent (student centred) work is acknowledged, therefore, as being vital to the successful spiralling of Kolb’s experiential learning cycle. This project outlines e-learning support as a means of assisting student peer groups in extending the experiential learning cycle for fieldwork.

We have developed mobile support for independent fieldwork in a small, accessible and safe area north of Kingsand village, Cornwall. The area is ideal for reinforcing skills in recording basic geological observations and in formulating a simple geological history based on these observations. Independent fieldwork can be undertaken throughout the academic year by small student groups (which can comprise mixed year groups). equipped with PDA’s and integrated GPS units. Students are prepared for fieldwork through a dedicated website, linked to support materials in the University’s unique Labplus facility. PDA’s, running MSCAPE, provide automatic prompts to locations where key observations can be made and detail the nature of the activities that should be carried out at each location. The e-guide takes students from 1st principles of observation and measurement, through recording methodology and eventually links to packages for analysis and interpretation (again using support provided through Labplus). There is no limit to the number of times any particular student can carry out the fieldwork, provided they are organised into groups of three or more. The work is not assessed but links into several components of the field skills training that are formally assessed, including independent geological mapping.

When there isn’t a right answer: interpretation and reasoning, key skills for 21st century geoscience

Bond, C.E., Midland Valley Exploration; Philo, C. and Shipton, Z.K., University of Glasgow. References

A key challenge in geoscience teaching is to give students the skills to cope with uncertainty. Even with the best data available, there is no unique answer to the problems posed by most geological datasets. Dealing with this uncertainty and producing viable models when interpreting data is an important skill for professional geoscientists. Good geoscience teaching encourages hypothesis-testing, innovative thought, reasoning and interpretation. Understanding how these interpretative skills are developed alongside geological concepts and techniques is crucial for the effective training of our future geoscientists. The next generation of geoscientists are going to play key roles in the policy and practice development for many 21st century issues, such as climate change, natural hazard mitigation, energy exploration, development of resources and waste management. From observations of a seismic interpretation exercise undertaken by a range of geoscientists, from novices to experts, we show that even as a novice it is important to develop geological reasoning skills and techniques to deal with data sets where there isn’t a ‘right’ answer.

The Freyja Project: uncertainty analysis of geological interpretations

Euan Macrae, Zoe Shipton, University of Glasgow; Clare Bond, Midland Valley Exploration. Powerpoint Presentation (2.12Mb)

Models of sub-surface geology are created from data sets that sample a limited volume of the subsurface and at a limited resolution; therefore, even with modern data collection techniques, the final model is highly dependent on the interpreter's conceptual framework. Interpreters from diverse educational backgrounds, or with experience in a range of oil field settings, can come up with very different results for the same data [1]. The ambiguity in the model choice is known as ‘conceptual uncertainty’; it is the uncertainty in the geological concept chosen for the data. Bond et al. found that geoscientists starting with the same dataset produced very different interpretational results and this ultimately affects the final geological model. The Freyja project will investigate the factors that
contribute to conceptual uncertainty and then develop interpretation workflows to minimise the associated risk in geological model creation.

Understanding why interpreters see particular aspects of a dataset as being important to an interpretation is essential. Furthermore, appreciating the effect that conceptual uncertainty has on the interpretation of geological data should be stressed from undergraduate teaching through to continuing professional development. In this session you can take part in the Freyja project. We will give out a questionnaire and seismic image to each attendee and will collect in the responses at the end. To maximise the benefits of the survey a large sample size is needed – your participation with Freyja is greatly appreciated. All participation is voluntary.

Undergraduate Students' Conceptions of Geology: What are They, and do They Change?

Alison Stokes, Experiential Learning Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL), University of Plymouth

Students’ understandings and experiences of ‘geology’ as a science are seldom documented, and yet these can provide valuable information which can be used to inform and develop academic curricula. Students embarking on four geoscience-related degree programs at a single UK university were asked to provide written responses to the question “what do you think geology is about or concerned with?” Repeating this survey at three further times throughout the students’ three-year degrees meant that conceptions were captured at the beginning of their first, second, and final years, and at the very end of their undergraduate teaching, thus providing a longitudinal dataset. This dataset was interrogated to a) identify the range of qualitatively distinct conceptions of geology expressed within the cohort; b) explore whether students’ conceptions changed as they progressed through their degree (i.e. from novice to expert); c) investigate whether changes in conceptions could be linked to specific degree pathways. Qualitative analysis revealed six distinct conceptions which could be further categorized according to the broad ontological classification of ‘matter’, ‘process’, and ‘systems’ (Libarkin & Kurdziel, 2006). Quantification of the data revealed that the majority of students expressed process-oriented conceptions, regardless of the stage of their degree. The proportion of students expressing conceptions of geology as ‘matter’ progressively decreased over time, whilst the patterns relating to process- and systems-oriented conceptions were more variable. These findings suggest that, at the scale of an entire cohort, students’ conceptions of geology do change over time. The precise nature of these changes may, however, be influenced by the specific degree program that a student follows, particularly where there is a greater emphasis on the applied aspects of geoscience.

Visualisation of geological structures using interactive 3D models

Ruth Wightman, Midland Valley Exploration. PDF (2.59Mb)

The ability to visualise geological structures in three dimensions is an important skill developed during an undergraduate geology student’s course of study. Successful development of spatial awareness is crucial for visualisation of geological structures, such as faults or folds, intersected by topography. A further higher order skill is to ‘see’ how these structures develop through time. To assist undergraduate students in learning key visualisation skills, and to aid lecturers in their teaching, Midland Valley have produced a set of interactive three-dimensional structural models.

The models have been created using Midland Valley’s Move software, and are based on the deformation of a layer-cake stratigraphy. The models and the software are available free to all academic institutions for use as a teaching aid in structural geology courses. A set of 14 different geological structures have been created to help students visualise their three dimensional morphology, illustrate how the structures interact with topography and the resultant map patterns created. The models are designed to be interactive and a booklet, outlining workflows for the restoration and/or forward modelling of the structures, compliments the models. This allows the user (student or teacher) to forward model or restore deformation e.g. restoring offsets along faults or forward modelling a thrust sequence. The ability to manipulate the models in this way helps students to visualise the formation and evolution of geological structures in three dimensions and to relate such deformation back to outcrop patterns observed on a geological map.

Integrating fieldwork and classroom teaching using 3D and 4D models: benefit or hindrance to student learning?

Douglas Paton, School of Earth & Environment, University of Leeds

Two perennial issues with Geoscience teaching are how to enable students to improve their understanding of 3D (and 4D) geology, and the related issue of getting the most out of field teaching through integration of classroom teaching. To address these problems there is increasing use of modern visualisation and modelling techniques, however, the key question is how effective are they? With the investment of money and time that is required in developing such teaching material it is often easy to assume that they are beneficial and better than “traditional” methods of teaching; but do 3D (and 4D) models help or hinder student learning? In this presentation a number of case studies will be presented across the student learning spectrum from 1st year undergraduates through to MSc students, and classroom to field class to evaluate their uses in a teaching environment. In addition these studies will also provide examples of using visualisation and modelling techniques to bridge the link between the class and the field.

These case studies will demonstrate that modern techniques genuinely do improve the student experience and benefit student learning. They will also, however, illustrate that these techniques should not replace traditional techniques. Instead, the most effective method is a programme of blended learning where modern and ‘traditional’ methods are complimentary.

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Information for Presenters

Poster presentations: maximum poster size = A0 (841 × 1189mm). Posters will be on display throughout the day; presenters are only required to be at their poster during the first coffee break.

Oral presentations: speakers each have a 20 minute slot to include time for discussions, questions and turnaround. Session chairs will be on hand to keep a strict eye on timing to ensure everyone has the same opportunity to speak! Sessions will run in parallel and participants will be encouraged to remain in the same room throughout the session. You may, therefore, wish to bring extra handouts for those participants not able to attend your presentation. A computer and data projector will be provided for those wishing to use PowerPoint. You are encouraged to submit your PowerPoint presentation in advance so it can be pre-loaded on to the computer to speed up the transition between speakers. Please send your presentation to Helen King at by Monday 18th January 2010.

Parallel sessions will be held in the Earth Imaging Lab on the lower ground floor of the Aston Webb building and the Palaeontology lab on the floor above. Presenters based in the palaeontology lab need to use the 2003 version of PowerPoint.

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The Higher Education Academy Subject Centre for Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences,
Buckland House, University of Plymouth, Drake Circus, Plymouth, PL4 8AA
Email: Tel: ++44 1752 584529 Fax: ++44 1752 584880