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When there isn't a right answer : interpretation and reasoning, key skills for twenty-first century geoscience

Bond, Clare E and Philo, Chris and Shipton, Zoe (2010) When there isn't a right answer : interpretation and reasoning, key skills for twenty-first century geoscience. International Journal of Science Education. pp. 1-24. ISSN 0950-0693

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Abstract

A key challenge in university geoscience teaching is to give students the skills to cope with uncertainty. Professional geoscientists can rarely be certain of the ‘right answer’ to problems posed by most geological datasets, and reasoning through this uncertainty, being intelligently flexible in interpreting data which are limited in resolution and spatial distribution, is an important skill for students to learn. Understanding how interpretative and reasoning skills are, or might better be, developed alongside foundational geological concepts and techniques is crucial for the effective training of our future geoscientists. In the study presented here, a seismic interpretation exercise was undertaken by 36 geoscientists ranging in experience from novice to expert. During the exercise, observations were made of the approaches taken by the participants, what we term the interpretational process, and an evaluation was made of what they actually accomplished, what we term the final interpretational outcomes. From a comparison of the different experience cohorts, we show that even as a novice it is important to develop geological reasoning skills to enhance the interpretation of datasets where there is indeed no ‘right answer’.