Earth Inquiry: Using Scientific Data to Support Knowledge Acquisition in Physical and Environmental Geology

PDF versionPDF version

The educational implications of technological developments in data delivery, coupled with new insights into the dynamics of the Earth system, are having a profound influence on geoscience instruction. The geoscience education community is working to find effective ways to provide students with access to first-rate instructional activities for enhanced discipline understanding and competence in using real scientific data. Studies reveal that instructional utilization of Web-based materials present unique challenges. Analysis and evaluation of the enormous geoscience information base, content selection, stability of data sites and the development and use of materials is complex and time consuming. Professors recognize the need for investigations that can maximize geoscience's rich real-time and archived data, but also for ones that can relate fundamental understandings in a structured and developmentally appropriate manner. Many professors have assembled various types of instructional material, but few have developed a set of well-crafted investigations that are representative of the range of topics presented in a beginning physical or environmental geology course. Most existing activities have students accessing a small, selected portion of the available data set with, more often than not, pre-determined outcomes. Such experiences do little in the way of utilizing the larger database and in engaging students with authentic questions and processes of science. Moreover, many of the Web sites are far from stable with access and entry changing frequently. What was developed last semester often does not, nor cannot, work the same way this semester. The American Geological Institute, with the participation of experienced geology professors, is developing a set of instructional activities to facilitate student understanding of fundamental geoscience concepts. All activities of the Earth Inquiry initiative present students with real-life issues, inquiry-based questions, and detailed guidance for acquisition of remote data that allow students to problem solve in a rational, scientific manner. The requisite Web-based data is always available and in a form consistent with the student-based activities when accessed through a gateway maintained by AGI. The Web site and the instructional activities are fully integrated and developmentally coupled. An assessment component evaluates students' abilities to apply key concepts to a range of related issues. Representative activities of the Earth Inquiry initiative will be presented.

  • Robert Ridky
  • Christopher Keane*
  • Mary Jo Alfano*
  • American Geophysical Union 2001 Joint Assembly