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Title: Explicit Instruction of Scientific Uncertainty in an Undergraduate Geoscience Field-Based Course

Understanding and communicating uncertainty is a key skill needed in the practice of science. However, there has been little research on the instruction of uncertainty in undergraduate science education. Our team designed a module within an online geoscience field course which focused on explicit instruction around uncertainty and provided students with an uncertainty rating scale to record and communicate their uncertainty with a common language. Students then explored a complex, real-world geological problem about which expert scientists had previously made competing claims through geologic maps. Provided with data, expert uncertainty ratings, and the previous claims, students made new geologic maps of their own and presented arguments about their claims in written form. We analyzed these reports along with assessments of uncertainty. Most students explicitly requested geologists’ uncertainty judgments in a post-course assessment when asked why scientists might differ in their conclusions and/or utilized the rating scale unprompted in their written arguments. Through the examination of both pre- and post-course assessments of uncertainty and students’ course-based assessments, we argue that explicit instruction around uncertainty can be introduced during undergraduate coursework and could facilitate geoscience novices developing into practicing geoscientists.

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Science & Education
Springer Science + Business Media
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National Science Foundation
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