Teaching Geoscience as a Subversive ActivityPresentation Transcript
“Each rock is a moment of time, a sharp comment on our fragile accident of life.”David Leveson, A Sense of the Earth, 1971
f “What we sense as stone is an elusive flicker in a blur of change.”
“Even the stones disappear. . . Only the chants remain.” Chinook Proverb
The theme:The importance of diversity amongthe sciences—distinctive styles ofthought and rhetoric, appropriatemethods, responsiveness to particularchallenges, use of metaphor toconstruct concepts, contexts of value,and appeals to aesthetics.
The struggle to grasp “geologictime” underscores how thesedistinctive elements combine toanswer “What to teach?” once thequest for unity has beenabandoned.
The geosciences wellillustrate the “disunity” ofthe sciences and thus counterthe codification of science asa unified enterprise.
Teaching the Geosciences as aSubversive Activity: It’s About Time Kip Ault Teaching the Methods of Geoscience Montana State University June 28, 2012
What to subvert?
The Quest for UnityAnd its Big Blue Blank Box
Scientific Inquiry:Understand science process concepts and skills that characterize the nature and practice of science. Oregon Department of Education
We need to question the notionthat all sciences ascribe to thesame habits of mind and theimplication that this principleought to guide planning whatto prioritize in teaching scienceand scoring achievement.
The issue:• Teaching generic processes of science contrasted with• An approach that emphasizes methods of inquiry adapted to context.
The premise:Concepts are vital tools of inquiry.Concept and process exist symbiotically,not independent of each other. “The”scientific method is myth, with the mythpersisting in generic “process, nature,and culture” approaches to teachingscience.
The “forbidden” question:Does a strong distinction betweencontent and inquiry (or process) skillscontribute to student alienation fromscience?
Thinking in “plurals” is aplace to start: culturesand natures of thesciences. . . However . . .
Whether starting with culture or ending with the nature of science, the Basic Science Process Skills —observe, infer, classify, measure, predict, communicate— always seem to dominate.
For 50 years the Footprints Puzzle has typified teaching a distinction between observations and inferences
The first portion of the fossil is exposed.
The entire fossilIs exposed.
“A DinosaurWalks Into theMuseum”Roland T. BirdNatural Historyv.47(2) 1941PALUXY RIVERTEXAS
Roland T. Bird’sscenario of a carnosaur attacking a sauropod.
Roland T. Bird’s scenario of a carnosaur attacking a sauropod.But were the tracks laiddown at the same time?
The Footprints Puzzle at the OregonZoo along the Cascades Trail
Megatherium tracks, where Darwinwalked on the Patagonian coast.
Fossil Rhea footprint. Walking rheas provide a modernanalogue for bipedal carnosaur locomotion. Tracks offighting hippos help to infer behaviors of sauropods.
On the trail of a Patagonian Flamingo
When studying the behavior ofextinct beasts from fossilizedfootprints, keep in mind thathippos are to sauropods as rheasare to carnosaurs.
We need to pursue a deep concern for:
We need to pursue a deep concern for:How the conceptualization of thephenomenon of interestinteracts with the methods of itsinvestigation.
We need to pursue a deep concern for:How the conceptualization of thephenomenon of interestinteracts with the methods of itsinvestigation.How this interaction generates differenttechniques in order to achieve distinctiveexplanatory ideals.
We need to pursue a deep concern for:How the conceptualization of thephenomenon of interestinteracts with the methods of itsinvestigation.How this interaction generates differenttechniques in order to achieve distinctiveexplanatory ideals.How the methods of investigationyield results calling for the inventionof new concepts.
“The enterprise [of science] . . . has a geography of itsown. In fact, it is not one enterprise, but many, a wholelandscape—or market—of independent epistemicmonopolies producing vastly different products.”Attention to diversity, to “different architectures ofempirical approaches , specific constructions of thereferent, particular ontologies of the instruments, anddifferent social machines . . . brings out the diversity ofepistemic cultures. This disunifies the sciences.” Karin Knorr Cetina, Epistemic Cultures, 1998
“The enterprise [of science] . . . has a geography of itsown. In fact, it is not one enterprise, but many, a wholelandscape—or market—of independent epistemicmonopolies producing vastly different products.”Attention to diversity, to “different architectures ofempirical approaches [map], specific constructions of thereferent [synchrony], particular ontologies of theinstruments [gravitometer], and different socialmachines [field camp]” (p. 3) . . . brings out the diversityof epistemic cultures. This disunifies the sciences.” Knorr Cetina, Epistemic Cultures, 1998
Whether laboratory, field, or experimentthe “extracted aspects” of the naturalobject are inscripted; these representation—often graphical—are subject to scrutinyand interpretation.Representations encode what is deemed“real.” These realities constitute thefundamental categories of explanatorythinking at the same time as they “purifythe malleable extract.” (Knorr Cetina)
For example, fundamental categories ofgeologic phenomena—faults, deltas,volcanoes, mantle plumes, plates—include objects that differ from eachother due to unique histories; incontrast, members of chemicalcategories—elements, isotopes,compounds—have no individualidentities that bear upon makingreliable predictions.
As a consequence of historical reality, manyof the “extracted aspects” of the naturalworld inscripted as geologic phenomenaembody a story: the dimension of timebecomes implicit in the geologic term. Forexample, “erosion” has a beginning, middle,and end; “igneous rock,” a story of originsto tell. The rhetoric, not just the methods ofinvestigation, of the geosciences, aredistinctive. The culture has a distinct way ofspeaking.
It is my judgment that geoscientists are well positioned to argue the diversity and distinctiveness of various scientific enterprises, the plurality, rather than unity, of the sciences.
Acknowledge disunity!Embrace diversity!Subvert the quest for unity!Contradict standardized inquiry!Exploit plurality! . . . and interest will follow
Avoid being hornswoggled bythose who prioritize the “habits ofmind, methods of science,processes of inquiry, nature ofscience, practices of science, bigideas, or cross-cutting themes”common to all sciences.
Strive, instead, towards adifferent kind of unity—a heuristicthat ferrets out the distinctiveness of a domain, that exposes thetraits that disunify, that nests aninquiry within multiple contextsincluding value, aesthetics,rhetoric, and theory.
Effectively teaching the geosciencesundermines the quest to depict unityamong the sciences. Distinctive styles ofreasoning, responsive to the demandscharacteristic of particular problems andderived from patterns of meaning, arewhat to teach.The meaning of “time” is central tomeeting these demands.
Meaning is use..
How do geoscientists usethe concept of time?
Geoscientists use time asPlace, Referee, NumberLength, Clock, Art, & Value
Time as Place
Place substitutesfor time.
Place on Earth
Place in Time
Place in the Mind
Time as Referee
Sequence andsynchrony in timereferee arguments.
For example, Correlation Charts illustrate: Before and after At the same time For the same time
Time as Length
acing a geologic timeline to scale andlocating significant events: Backwards orforwards in time, what is thepsychological difference between the twoexperiences?hat difference does “compression” ofintervals (1 meter = 1 million yearschanging to 1 meter = 10 million years)
Lengths represent durations.
Comparing durations requires clocks.
“In order to time something, you have to compare it to something else thatalways goes at the same speed. But to know it goes at the same speed, youhave to time it. It’s kind of confusing.” --John in 4th Grade, 1979
Time as Clock
Measuring Time with the “Popcorn” Clock: What to count?Equal intervals of time derived from therandomness of decay (analogous to kernelspopping).
Selected elements of reality, in vivid, coherent form that adhere to Elliot Eisner’s criteria of artistry.
What is the value of understandinggeologic time?
.004% of timeline?
“The variety of rock is infinite but circumscribed by process and substance. It may suggest eternity, but it is constantly being createdand constantly being destroyed.
It is, at each instant,the summary of its past and the threshold of its future.” David Leveson, A Sense of the Earth, 1971
The past reaches into thepresent . . .
. . . fostering deep respect forthe present moment.
My Thanks to all for Thoughts on:Translate Nature into CultureDiscipline Specific MethodsGeologists Didn’t Write EquationsDisconnected Knowledge StructuresThe Localized PresentVisualizations . . . Highly SocialLithic LiteracyPlace-based DisciplineRelevance to EveryonePersonal EncounterDecide, Revisit, DecideContinuously InquiresIsolated SilosProcess-orientedCritical Thinking SkillsCritical ReasoningScientific Method Starting PointObservations from InterpretationsEarth Science Default CourseScience-fair-model Does Not WorkTwo Independent Methods