We are researching how geologists and students gather, represent, and integrate spatial information about the attitude and location of dipping layers, a skill set underlying success in field geology.
In the constituent-skills component of the study, undergraduates observe an artificial "outcrop" installed on the Penn State campus, a tabletop model of a dipping surface, and/or a rod lying on the table or ground. Tasks include sketching strike or rod orientation onto a map, estimating dip angle, and drawing strike line or "water level" directly onto the dipping surface of the tabletop model. We examine performance in relation to the nature of instruction, the strike and dip of the tabletop model, the orientation of the rod, and the gender and spatial skills of the participants.
In the integrative component of the study, participants observe an array of eight artificial outcrops, which have been installed on the L-DEO campus so as to form a "structure" at a realistic scale. After observing and taking notes on the outcrops, participants choose from among fourteen 3-D scale models the one that they think best represents a structure that could be formed by the outcrops. Participants are videotaped while selecting and explaining their model.
There are many implications for field geology instruction. Dip is an easier and more obvious concept for students than strike, and might be better taught first. Students' spatial skills influence not only their performance on strike and dip tasks, but also the likelihood that they will spontaneously adopt useful (and teachable) spatial strategies such as scanning middle-distance landmarks in the surrounding environment. Almost everyone overestimates dip angle, across a wide range of circumstances. Physical models can scaffold both students' perception (e.g., in "seeing" the strike line in a dipping surface) and students' reasoning (e.g,, in identifying attributes of outcrops to incorporate in interpretation).
Ishikawa, T. and K. A. Kastens, 2004, Envisioning Large Geological Structures from Field Observations: An Experimental Study, Geological Society of America Annual Meeting and Exposition Abstracts with Programs. Paper 62-21.
Kastens, K. A., Ishikawa, T., & Liben, L. S. (2006). Visualizing a 3-D geological structure from outcrop observations: Strategies used by geoscience experts, students and novices. Geological Society of America Annual Meeting & Exposition Abstracts with Program, v. 38, no. 7, p. 424.
Liben, L., Kastens, K. A., & Christensen, A. E. (2006). Students' difficulty in visualizing the horizontal may contribute to difficulty on geological strike and dip tasks. Geological Society of America Annual Meeting & Exposition Abstracts with Program, v. 38, no. 7, p. 425.
Liben, L.S., Kim A. Kastens, Adam Christensen and Shruti Agrawal (2008). Implications for Field Geology Instruction from a Behavioral Study on How Students Gather, Represent, and Integrate Spatial Information about Dipping Surface. Geological Society of America Annual Meeting & Exposition Abstracts with Program.
Kastens, K. A., S. Agrawal, L. S. Liben (2009). How students and field geologists reason in integrating spatial observations from outcrops to visualize a 3-D geological structure, International Journal of Science Education, special issue on Visual & spatial modes of learning, J. Ramadas & J. Gilbert (editors), v. 31(3), pp. 365-393.
Kastens, K. A., Liben, L. S., & Agrawal, S. (2008). Epistemic actions in science education. In Freksa, C., Newcombe, N.S., Gärdenfors, P., & Wölfl, S. (Eds.) Spatial cognition VI: Learning, reasoning, and talking about space (pp. 202-215). Freiburg, Germany: Springer.
Kastens, K.A., S. Agrawal, and L. S. Liben (2008). Research in Science Education: The Role of Gestures in Geoscience Teaching and Learning, Journal of Geoscience Education, v. 54, n. 4, p. 362-368.
Liben, L. S., Kastens, K. A., & Christensen, A. E. (2006, May). Water-level task performance and gender are linked to success in geology. Poster presented at the Association of Psychological Science, New York.
Liben, L. S., Kastens, K. A., & Christensen, A. E. (2008, March). The role of basic spatial concepts in education: What learners bring to the classroom. Poster presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, New York.
Liben, L. S., Christensen, A. E., & Kastens, K. A (2008, June). Basic spatial concepts in learning geology. Paper presented at the Conference on Research and Training in Spatial Intelligence, Evanston, Illinois.
Liben, L. S. (2009, February). (in collaboration with K. A. Kastens, S. Agrawal, A.E. Christensen, & L. J. Myers). Spatial concepts are critical in science education. Poster presented at the National Science Foundation, Arlington,VA.