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Building an understanding of geological time: A cognitive synthesis of the “macro” and “micro” scales of time

By
Jeff Dodick
Jeff Dodick
Science Teaching Center, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Givat Ram, Jerusalem 91904, Israel
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Nir Orion
Nir Orion
Department of Science Teaching, Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot 76100, Israel
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Published:
January 01, 2006

Few discoveries in geology are more important than geological time. However, for most people, it is impossible to grasp because of its massive scale. In this chapter, we offer a solution to this problem based on our research in cognition and education. Our strategy involves the decoupling of geological time between the macroscale of deep time, which includes the major features of Earth history, and the study of which we call event-based studies, and the microscale of relative time, represented by strata, the study of which we term logic-based studies. Our event-based study focuses on the problem of learning about macroevolution within the massive time scale of the fossil record. We approached this problem by creating a four-stage learning model in which the students manipulated a series of increasingly complex visual representations of evolution in time. Postprogram results indicate that students had a better understanding of macroevolution as seen in the fossil record; moreover, they appreciated that different events in absolute time required different scales of time to occur. Our logic-based studies used Montangero's diachronic thinking model as a basis for describing how students reconstruct geological systems in time. Using this model, we designed three specialized instruments to test a sample of middle and high school students. Our findings indicated that there were significant students in grade 9–12 and grade 7–8 in their ability to reconstruct geological systems. Moreover, grade 11–12 geology majors in Israel had a significant advantage over their nongeological counterparts in such reconstruction tasks.

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GSA Special Papers

Earth and Mind: How Geologists Think and Learn about the Earth

Cathryn A. Manduca
Cathryn A. Manduca
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David W. Mogk
David W. Mogk
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Geological Society of America
Volume
413
ISBN print:
9780813724133
Publication date:
January 01, 2006

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