Investigating undergraduate students' sense making and connections about volcanology concepts
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[ACCESS RESTRICTED TO THE UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI AT AUTHOR'S REQUEST.] Undergraduate students' understanding of geology concepts and related connections are necessary to develop scientific knowledge. However, there is very limited research of college students understanding about volcanoes and the role of teaching strategies in contributing to students' understanding of volcanology concepts. In this primarily qualitative study, open-ended responses from a pre/post-test, students' confidence levels, semi-structured individual interviews, course assessments, and field notes were sources of data. Of the 184 students from two introductory geology courses that answered the pre-test, 10 students were randomly selected for interviews. Students clarified their pre-test answers during the interview, and mentioned the teaching strategies that facilitated their understanding about volcanoes and igneous rocks. Using an inductive approach, student data was analyzed as individual cases, then as cross-cases. Four concept categories emerged, where students were categorized as high, partial and weak understanding about volcanoes. Prior to instruction, students' conceptual knowledge of volcanoes and connections among volcanology concepts was limited, mostly on volcanic processes and products. All students increased conceptual knowledge and related connections about volcanoes, but medium-score students were weak in explaining volcanic processes. Students' misconceptions about volcanoes were identified. Visualizations and laboratory activities were the two teaching strategies that helped students in the systematic building of volcano concepts and connections.
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