Date of Award

2010

Level of Access

Campus-Only Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Teaching

Advisor

Christopher Gerbi

Second Committee Member

Kirk Allen Maasch

Third Committee Member

Francois Amar

Abstract

This study involves a measurement and analysis of 9th graders' ability to apply procedural skills to Earth systems, specifically global wind patterns. Data were collected during a unit covering the geographical influences on climate (GIOC), in which global winds play a large role. GIOC is a practical topic students often find interesting and can tangibly relate to, but there is a lack of research supporting effective instructional strategies. High school Earth Science teachers are not necessarily climate science experts and thus access to in-depth instruction and successful pedagogy ease the challenges in teaching this topic. The investigated topics of interest within GIOC focused on students' understanding of convergent lifting and of the rain shadow effect. Both of these concepts are heavily dependent on global wind patterns, which sample students in this study covered in the units preceding GIOC. Students were taught the progression of steps required to draw global winds, which required identifying pressure gradients and understanding the influence of the Coriolis effect. Within these preceding units, students displayed better than satisfactory scores on average and thus it was hypothesized that students were competent in drawing wind patterns when entering the unit on GIOC. This did not turn out to be true however. Although 80% of students displayed an understanding of convergent lifting and the rain shadow effect, only 36% of all students sampled (n=132) were able to correctly process and apply global wind patterns in this new context. These results suggest that the 9th grade mind has yet to develop the cognitive skills necessary to carry out the logical, though spatially challenging, process of drawing global surface winds.

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