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Effectiveness in problem solving during geologic field examinations: Insights from analysis of GPS tracks at variable time scales

By
Eric M. Riggs
Eric M. Riggs
Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences and Center for Research and Engagement in Science and Mathematics Education, Purdue University, 550 Stadium Mall Drive, West Lafayette, Indiana 47907, USA, and Department of Geological Sciences, San Diego State University, 5500 Campanile Dr., San Diego, California 92182-1020, USA
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Russell Balliet
Russell Balliet
Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences and Center for Research and Engagement in Science and Mathematics Education, Purdue University, 550 Stadium Mall Drive, West Lafayette, Indiana 47907, USA
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Christopher C. Lieder
Christopher C. Lieder
Department of Geological Sciences, San Diego State University, 5500 Campanile Dr., San Diego, California 92182-1020, USA
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Published:
December 01, 2009

Field instruction is a critical piece of undergraduate geoscience majors’ education, and despite its central importance, relatively little educational research has explored how students learn to solve problems during geological fieldwork. This study adds to work presented in previous studies by our group using global positioning system (GPS) tracking of students engaged in independent field examinations. We examined four students from our previous studies working in a new field area. We also applied a new variant of our polygon coding approaches for analyzing student navigation tracks to gauge the sensitivity of our method to the time scale of analysis. We captured position data at 1 min intervals and then coded the resulting data by generating 5 min and 15 min sequential polygons. Our analysis shows that the two methods are comparable at the coarsest scale, but that finer-scale coding reveals more detailed movements related primarily to identification of key features and lithologies, which lends insight into effective geologic problem solving in the field. Coherence of small-scale and large-scale coding is most useful for showing longer-range planning in problem solving as the large-scale movements average out small-scale investigatory moves. Our results also suggest that in detailed and difficult field areas with topography that permits easy reoccupation of critical areas, there is an optimum amount of relocation and back-tracking. Too much retracing indicates confusion, as found in our earlier study. However, too little reoccupation of key areas appears to accompany a failure to recognize important features. Our study offers additional refinement of instructional tools in gauging student skills in geologic field problem solving offered by GPS tracking.

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Contents

GSA Special Papers

Field Geology Education: Historical Perspectives and Modern Approaches

Steven J. Whitmeyer
Steven J. Whitmeyer
Department of Geology and Environmental Science, James Madison University, USA
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David W. Mogk
David W. Mogk
Department of Earth Sciences, Montana State University, USA
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Eric J. Pyle
Eric J. Pyle
Department of Geology and Environmental Science, James Madison University, USA
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Geological Society of America
Volume
461
ISBN print:
9780813724614
Publication date:
December 01, 2009

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