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GSM Lecture: Monday, October 1, 2012, 7:30 PM

GSM Lecture: Monday, October 1, 2012, 7:30 PM

Location: University of MN, Kenneth Keller Hall, 200 Union St SE, Room 3-210
Keller Hall also called the Computer Science-Electrical Engineering Building.
It is near the corner of Washington Ave. and Union Street, with parking across
Union Street.  Washington avenue is now closed to traffic, so see the following
detailed directions at the end of this e-mail.

Plate Tectonics:
When a well known theory is not so well known.
Scott Clark, Ph.D., Assistant Professor,
University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire


How well do geoscience novices and experts understand Earth processes that are related to fundamental aspects of plate tectonics? In this seminar, I will address this question by presenting an analysis of data I obtained via questionnaires, interviews, and an eye-tracking study.  As might be expected, geoscience novices hold a number of alternative conceptions (AKA misconceptions) after their first college-level exposure to plate tectonics. Confusion is common on topics such as the fate of subducting plates, causes of melting, state of matter of the mantle, and how transform boundaries work.  What might be surprising is how far into the expert realm many of these alternative conceptions can be retained.  Along with the findings of this study, I will present evidence that points to how some of these alternative concepts are supported by our teaching, and why they are retained well beyond the undergraduate level.

Short Biography:

I am an Assistant Professor of Geology at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. My B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. degrees are from The Universities of Kansas, Iowa, and Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, respectively.  My Ph.D. research was in the field of stable isotope geochemistry.  While at The University of Illinois, I held a one-year NSF GK-12 Fellowship working with 5th-graders in southern IL.  It amazed me to see those students learning basic geoscience concepts as easily as many college-level students.  That experience piqued my interest in how people learn about Earth and Earth processes, and led me to post-doctoral research in Julie Libarkin's Geocognition lab at Michigan State University.  Geocognition is a relatively new field that applies cognitive science methodologies to investigations of how people perceive and interpret the Earth and Earth phenomena.  Beyond being interested in students' alternative conceptions about Earth and Earth processes, and the persistence of those conceptions across the expert-novice continuum, I am actively studying how scientific concepts are communicated by instructors and the news media.


Washington Ave. is now permanently closed in front of Kellar Hall, the old Computer Science building that we have been meeting in for the past 10 years.  This complicates the driving.  If you have used Washington Ave. to cross the Mississippi River, you will not be able to do that anymore. To get into the parking ramp across Union Street from Kellar Hall, will take a bit of time and patience. 

If you travel I-94, exit at Huron Ave, which is on the east side of the Mississippi River.  The first stop light after the exit is SE Fulton.  Turn left on Fulton to Harvard Street.  Note that Fulton merges with East River Parkway just before it reaches Harvard, and technically, Fulton ends at the merger.  Do not follow East River Parkway past the University Hospitals, instead turn right on Harvard.

Harvard is a narrow, busy street, so go slow and keep alert for pedestrians and cyclists, who seem to ignore cars.    Cross Washington Ave. and the parking ramp we all know and love is just on the other side.  Turn left on Beacon Street, and left again on Union. 
It's a bit difficult getting there from I-94, but from every other direction it's not that bad.  The easiest is via 35W to University Avenue.  Then east to Church Street.  Turn right (south) on Church at the Bell Museum.  Go 1 block, then turn left on Union (between the Armory and the Architecture Bldg.).  Follow Union around to the west side of the parking ramp.

For folks who must use I-94, another possibility is to exit at 280 and then get on University Avenue.  For the next month or so, the intersection at Univ. will still be a mess.  Take Univ. west as far as Williams arena, then  branch onto 4th St. as it becomes one way.  Go a few blocks to 17th Avenue.  Turn left.  In 1 block you cross Univ. and then 17th becomes Church St.   Then follow the directions in the paragraph just above.