A Phenomenographic Analysis Of Students’ Experience Of Geological Time

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Jennie Lundqvist
Kim Svensson
Karl Ljung
Urban Eriksson
Moa Eriksson

Keywords

Discipline-Based Education Research, Geoscience Education Research, Geological Time, Spatio- Temporal Scales, Competency, Phenomenography, Multimodality

Abstract

Geological time is by many geoscience instructors considered a threshold concept for geoscience students, being a central concept for how we experience geosceince phenomena that takes place on a spatio-temporal scale ranging from micro (e.g. cloud formation) to macro (e.g. plate tectonics). If one wishes to understand geoscience phenomena that goes beyond human perception, one must move from the concrete toward the abstract—from experiencing a phenomenon with one’s senses toward an experience of the phenomenon that is based on an mind construct; we refer to such competency as disciplinary spatio-temporal competency (DSTC). The purpose of this study is to gain an understanding of how first-year students in a geoscience program in Sweden experience and represent the phenomenon of geological time, i.e. to capture their DSTC. Analyazing data from three semi-structured group interviews using a phenomenographic approach revealed how the students express geological time through their language, their gestures, and their visualizations. From the result in this study, including four qualitatively different themes, or categories of description, it is possible to conclude that the students' way of expressing geological time give rise to exciting interpretations and we believe that these expressions can provide information also about how students experience (and learn about) geological time. We report that through students’ illustrations and discussions, students experience geological time as something more than a static one-dimensional straight line. The data analysis shows that students connect geological time with spatio-temporal aspects from various geosientific phenomena, one example of such an dynamic description of geological time is “One simply fills it with more information” indicating that the students experience geological time as two-dimensional (space and time).

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