Changes in Geologic Time Understanding in a Class for Preservice Teachers

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The paradigm of geologic time is built on complex concepts, and students master it in multiple steps. Concepts in Geology is an inquiry-based geology class for preservice teachers at Wright State University. The instructors used the Geoscience Concept Inventory (GCI) to determine if students' understanding of key ideas about geologic time and Earth history changed between the first and last day of the course. For three of the four GCI questions analyzed in this study, the number of correct student responses increased significantly between the pretest and the post-test, indicating that many of the students were learning the concepts being tested. Our analyses indicates that for two of the GCI questions, certain incorrect pretest choices were more likely to give way to correct post-test answers than others. For example, on a question about timelines, students who chose the answer that gave a correct order of events (incorrectly scaled) on the pretest were more likely to switch to the correct answer on the post-test than students who chose an answer with both an incorrect order and scale on the pretest. These results imply that some misconceptions are more likely than others to grow into a correct understanding. Misconceptions that consist of multiple incorrect ideas may require more time and effort to replace than simpler ones.