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Learning geological time in Italian Liceo High Schools



This thesis is the result of two different researches addressing the following issues: Part I: the teaching of Earth Sciences in Italian liceo high schools Part II: the understanding of geological time in a sample of 9th grade students of Friuli Venezia Giulia
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Following the recent upper secondary school reform (2010) in almost every Italian liceo high school there is a Natural Sciences curriculum (including Earth Sciences, Biology and Chemistry) spread over five years. The Ministry of Education issued guidelines without chronological separation between the three different subjects. Given the novelty of the context, we decided to investigate how teachers are implementing the new Earth Sciences curriculum through the five teaching years by means of a survey. This has been administered as an anonymous on-line questionnaire between January and March 2014. The sample was chosen by randomisation from the population of science teachers working in Italian public liceo high school. Sample schools have been stratified according to geographical location and density of schools, 120 questionnaires from 76 schools (4.5% of the school population) have been collected. The sample shows that the compliance with Ministry guidelines on the prescribed topics is highest in the 1st biennium, lower in the 2nd biennium (>90% vs 72-77% - according to the topics) and very low in the 5° year (73, 17 and 20% - according to the topics), in which teachers' choices appear heterogeneous. The topics deemed indispensable by the sample were the ones already present in curricula before the reform. Teaching organization seems affected by the limited weekly teaching time, and practical activities such as laboratory and fieldwork appear extremely reduced. Regarding chosen textbooks, sample teachers generally indicate a few specific authors, while others are seldom chosen. When asked about their knowledge of Earth Sciences, teachers expressed an overall positive self-perception, accompanied by interest for in-service training offer, preferably in mixed format (in attendance and online) This survey suggests that, due to the lack of guidance, the new curricula are being implemented autonomously by teachers, substantially grounding upon old curricula. The heterogeneous choices for the final year could be affected by uncertainty about the first post-reform state exam. The study also indicates the need to start or enhance in-service teacher training. Novel strategies for implementing the new curricula are an opportunity to overcome old teaching practices largely based on a theoretical approach.
Physical geography as a discipline is not included in national Italian high school curricula, even though it is supposed to be taught as part of the natural science programmes, especially after the 2010 reform of the Italian secondary school system. In particular the reform introduces the study of physical geography for the first time to first year classes in specialized upper secondary schools known as "licei". A survey based on open data shows that Earth Science textbooks released after 2010 tend to offer a broader range of topics than intended by the reform's framework, which provides teachers ample freedom in scheduling. The data, however, also reveals that only a small percentage of science teachers strictly follow the national guidelines, while the majority allocate a very small amount of their schedule to physical geography. This reveals a minor influence of geoscience in the Italian approach to the teaching of general science at high school level. The new reform even if it lacks of implementing information for teachers suggests that both the importance attributed to physical geography in the curricula and the related teaching methods used need to be improved. This meets the need to increase geosciences literacy in scholar population in order to develop an active and responsible attitude towards environmental challenges and hydro-geological risks, which are a distinctive aspect of Italian territory.
This paper presents the design, evaluation and experimentation of a three-dimensional immersive virtual environment dedicated to the teaching of the Earth Sciences at school. A multi user virtual environment (Muves) was built with Open Sim technology, addressed to students in the age range 13-18 years. The aim of the research was to investigate the educational effectiveness of using the immersive virtual worlds to foster knowledge acquisition, develop scientific skills and increase interest in learning geosciences. The experimentation has been carried out in schools localized in the area of the Phlegrean Fields (Campi Flegrei, Napoli) proposing activities related to volcanology and volcanic hazard. The results show that the virtual worlds improve the involvement and motivation of students to scientific studies, especially in the age range 13-16, with an increased quantity and quality of collaborative work and interaction with the teachers and other students.
As part of a continuing research program on the understanding of geological time (deep time) across society, a total of 51 in-service teachers of 7- to Ii-year-old children was studied in relation to their orientations toward geoscience phenomena in general and deep time in particular. The first purpose of the research was to identify the nature of idiosyncratic conceptions of deep time: a cognitive deep time framework of pivotal gee-events. The second was to propose a curricular Deep Time Framework that may form the basis for constructivist approaches to in-service and pre service teacher training which places deep time center stage. Three research questions were posed, addressing: (1) perceptions of geoscience phenomena and teachers' actual encounters with these in the classroom; (2) conceptions of deep time; and (3) approaches to teaching two curriculum areas (history and geology) which involve the interpretation of material evidence to reconstruct the past. Results enable the selection of 20 geoscience phenomena to be located in relation to teachers' interests and classroom encounters, those of high interest and high encounters being proposed as pivotal areas for further attention in teacher training. Results also reveal that inservice teachers conceive events in the geological past (geo-events) as having occurred in three distinct clusters: extremely ancient; moderately ancient; and less ancient. Within each category there is a strong lack of consensus on time-of-occurrence. Results suggest that primary teachers exhibit greater imagination in their teaching of history compared with geology and that aspects of deep time and past environments are not perceived as being of any great significance in the interpretation of geological specimens. (C) 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
The vastness of geological time is a fundamental concept in Earth Science. Yet, the geological time scale is so far removed from the human scale of time reference that this concept is difficult for students to understand. This exercise rescales events in geological history within a one year time-reference framework that students can conceptualize. The information is visually summarized using a large-format yearly planning calendar and erasable markers. Students complete the mathematical conversion from geological time to the corresponding time in a calendar year. In addition to the monumental events in the evolutionary and tectonic history of Earth, teachers should include local geological events to make the exercise relevant to students at a more personal level.