Home / Node / Heather Petcovic Colloquium Abstract (Oct 26, 2016)

Heather Petcovic Colloquium Abstract (Oct 26, 2016)

Thinking in the Field: How Experts and Novices Make a Geologic Map

Fieldwork is considered essential to undergraduate education in the geosciences. Nearly all U.S. geology students participate in some form of fieldwork during their undergraduate years, with most attending a field-based course or camp focused at least in part on geologic mapping. From a cognitive perspective, geologic mapping is a demanding task – the geologist must navigate through an unfamiliar area to find outcrops, collect relevant data (rock identification and features, strike and dip of bedding, etc.), and integrate widely spaced observations into a three-dimensional mental model of the underlying geologic structure which is then represented on a two-dimensional map. To gain a better understanding of how thinking and skills involved in mapping change with training and experience, we recruited 67 novice (undergraduate and graduate student) to expert (professional) geologists to complete a suite of cognitive tests and map an unfamiliar area of the Rocky Mountains. Data sources included tests of geologic knowledge and spatial thinking, GPS movement tracks of participants during mapping, participant maps and field notes, and post-mapping interviews. From analysis of these data we have found striking differences between novices and experts in the role of spatial thinking in developing models of the field area, in movement paths, and in reasons for visiting certain regions of the field area. Ultimately, this research can inform instruction at field camps and courses so that students are better able to “think like and expert” during geologic mapping.

Talk slides (PDF)

Colloquium questions answered (PDF)