Monday, December 13, 2010

Development of Geoscientists from Novice to Professional - Field Courses

We had a set of great sessions today that covered the gradient from K-12 education, undergraduate education, field work / field courses, to preparing students for geoscience careers and supporting early-career geoscientists in the early years of their career.

The first session of talks had two talks about field mapping both looking at what novices see in the field and what experts see. In one, (ED11C-02) Joshua Caulkins conducted a pre-field set of exercises as the group of students and faculty traveled to the field site. The exercises were a set of four exercises, each building on the previous, to see how novice and expert mappers could create geological models based on a set of field data that represented a day's worth of data collection. The students were all 3rd year geology students who had at a minimum taken courses in minerology, structural geology, sedimentology, petrology, and had one previous field course. Analysis revealed that the novice mappers developed fewer probable geological models than did expert mappers.

In the next talk (ED11C-03) Rory Cottrell and co-authors examined how novices and experts examine landscapes when they are in the field by deploying eye-tracking cameras that can record where the observer is actually looking when examining the landscape. They used cameras that measured visual direction, eye motion and landscape view and wide-brimmed straw hats to minimize glare. They found that the experts looked at more of the landscape and focused on a wider swath of features than did novices. Novices tended to look at fewer features and tended to concentrate their focus on prominent geological features.

It was interesting to see these two talks arrive at a similar conclusion from different perspectives. Whereas novices looking at field data tended to construct few probable geological models in one study, the novices in another study tended to focus on fewer visual cues in the landscape when in the field. Yet with time and experience in field mapping, the focus expands to take in more of the landscape and develop a wider range of hypotheses and probable geologic models.

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