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Bigger Ideas in Earth System Science

This presentation synthesizes multiple efforts seeking to define aspects of Earth system science literacy.

Don Haas

on 25 February 2017

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Transcript of Bigger Ideas in Earth System Science

Don Duggan-Haas, Ph.D.
Bigger Ideas in Earth System Science
The Paleontological Research Institution & its Museum of the Earth
This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under grant No. 0733303.

Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.
9 Big Ideas
75 Supporting Concepts
8 Essential Principles
46 Fundamental Concepts
7 Essential Principles
44 Fundamental Concepts
7 Essential Principles
33 Fundamental Concepts
A series of initiatives have been undertaken to define what constitutes literacy in Earth system science disciplines and in environmental education.

The process has yielded a multitude of “essential” principles.
There are no examples of creating a thick description of what everyone should understand about any topic that has led to wide swaths of the population understanding the target content, in spite of countless attempts to do just that throughout human history.
Not one.
These initiatives represent a consensus view of the most important Earth system science concepts.
The Guidelines for Excellence are of a different form than the literacy initiatives, making the numeric comparison inappropriate.
"Big Ideas" simply aren't big enough.
What if we taught only a few profound ideas, but taught them deeply?
Deep understanding of profound ideas requires knowledge of all (or most) of the literacy principles.
And connects them to a coherent framework, thus increasing the likelihood of true understanding and retention.
What makes an idea really big?
How do these ideas compare to the literacy principles?
Color coded to ReaL Earth System Science Bigger Ideas.
The second of three key findings of the National Research Council’s Committee on How People Learn is:

To develop competence in an area of inquiry, students must:
have a deep foundation of factual knowledge,
understand facts and ideas in the context of a conceptual framework, and
organize knowledge in ways that facilitate retrieval and application.
We need to attend to the realities of school
(including college & university)
These principles target commencement level expectations.
So, we have around 200 fundamental concepts...
...to teach in 180 days of instruction.
Click on the box for relevant websites
Last updated: July 18, 2016
Now including all three NGSS Dimensions

Bigger Ideas from the ReaL Earth System Science project:
Relevant Websites
What are the most important ideas to understand about the Earth system?
Let's take a closer look at how one big idea is manifest in the different initiatives.
Don was an Earth & Space Science Design Team member for the Conceptual Framework.
The idea cuts across the Earth science curriculum.
Understanding of the idea is attainable by students and the understanding holds promise for retention.
The idea is essential to understanding a variety of topics.
The idea requires uncoverage; has a bottomless quality.
Furthermore, the entire Earth science curriculum is represented by this (small) set of ideas.
Stop and think about it.
"90% of your students will forget 90% of the content of your class within 90 days of finishing your class."

~ Don Weinshank
Share your answers with your neighbors,
then share them here:
That implies at least two things:

Maybe we ought to do things fundamentally differently, and,

We should think very, very carefully about the 10% they remember.
If my student's remember and understand only one scientific idea taught in my class twenty years after they are done being my students, I want them to understand this:
How many "Key Ideas" are identified in the New York State
Physical Setting/Earth Science
Core Curriculum Guide?
The National Research Council's Framework for Science Education:
Ocean Literacy Principles:
Climate Literacy Principles:
Atmospheric Literacy Principles:
Earth Science Big Ideas:
Excellence in Environmental Education: Guidelines for Learning (K–12):
Questions &
And there are other initiatives...
7 Essential Principles
49 Fundamental Concepts
These totals do not include the NAAEE Guidelines for Excellence or Disciplinary Core Ideas from the Next Generation Science Standards.
The majority of high school Earth science teachers in this country are in just four states.
Physics, chemistry & biology dominate high school science (and have for 100 years).
If Earth systems science is taught, astronomy is usually included in the same one year course.
Really. Please ask them.
How can this huge set of sets of ideas be sensibly used in designing and teaching our courses?
For now, imagine their responses, and share what you imagine.
What do you think your former students would say if you asked them what were the two to seven most important ideas from your course(s)?
Please ask a cross-section of your former students
just the best students).
And when you get home, actually ask them.
The next slide is the reveal.
Work with the Literacy Principles before going to the reveal.
Links are in the agenda.
Let's do a pre-mortem
Share one item from your list.
Prospective Hindsight:
One thing you'll do to prevent those problems:
First, relax.
Now, imagine that it's 2026, and, you able to pull together many of your 2016 students. They didn't hold onto the big ideas of your course.
Timed writing: For 2 minutes, write down all the reasons they don't have those understandings.
Gary Klein
is the creator of the pre-mortem and the author of
Seeing What Others Don't.
“I have yet to see any problem, however complicated, which, when you looked at it in the right way, did not become still more complicated.”
~ Poul Anderson
(To be completed by workshop participants).
(To be completed by workshop participants).
Maybe pre, maybe post...
No economic threat
Not applicable to daily life.
Learned for the test, not for retention
Teaching/assessment required memorization
No emotional connection
Conflicts with their worldview
supplanted by other content
No reinforcement
Knowledge/understanding not embedded in their sense of place.
No social reinforcement
It's the students' faults!
It's the system, man!
Connect student interest to motivation and engagement
Repetition in different interesting, memorable contexts
Apply in a meaningful (to the student) context
Create the need to know - dissonance
Have an experience that builds understanding
Connect to current media outlets that reinforces the understanding.
Connect to what they already know
Prove someone wrong
Contrary thinking (but be careful - avoid backfire effect)
Demonstrate broad and practical applicability.
Applications to the duties of citizenship
Full transcript