Educational Theory & Practice for Skill Development in the Geosciences
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
A movement from the traditional to the modern in geoscience education occurs through piecemeal application of educational theory to geology teaching. This dissertation developed and examined four traditional and innovative geoscience skills-based learning activities through qualitative, quantitative and mixed-methods methods: A. Mineralogy laboratories were designed to improve learning gains (i.e., knowledge) and students’ perceptions of mineralogy topics, primarily using group work. Groups of sizes 3 and 4 were most effective (compared with pairs, and groups of 5 and 6) in improving student collaboration. B. An inquiry-style videogame was designed and tested in order to compare learning gains to that of a geological field trip. Though learning gains were slightly higher in the fieldtrip, some aspects of the videogame were more successful at increasing the depth and awareness of observation skills needed. C. Field notebooks were analysed for uniqueness and completeness to quantify differences among participants’ note-taking. We found that previous geologic experience, gender, and lecturer teaching styles all contributed to the students note taking abilities and perceptions of note-taking. D. The design research of the Volcanic Hazards Simulation resulted in identification of critical pedagogical variables that encourage students’ transferable skills: a) the pace of the simulation, b) the preparedness of the students, c) the role and team authenticity and d) communication best practices. Meaningful changes to the curriculum of labs, field and experiential teaching methods resulted in the improvement of content knowledge, perceptions and skills of geoscience students. Collectively, these results suggest practical and theory-based solutions grounded in Constructivist paradigms to provide improved geoscience teaching at Universities.