Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/se-2021-69
https://doi.org/10.5194/se-2021-69

  21 May 2021

21 May 2021

Review status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal SE.

Teaching Uncertainty: A new framework for communicating unknowns in traditional and virtual field experiences

Cristina G. Wilson1,2, Randolph T. Williams3, Kathryn Bateman2, Basil Tikoff3, and Thomas F. Shipley2 Cristina G. Wilson et al.
  • 1General Robotics, Automation, Sensing, and Perception Laboratory, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, USA
  • 2Department of Psychology, College of Arts and Sciences, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA, USA
  • 3Department of Geoscience, College of Letters and Science, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI, USA

Abstract. Managing uncertainty is fundamental to geoscience practice, yet geoscience education generally does not incorporate explicit instruction on uncertainty. To the extent that students are exposed to scientific uncertainty, it is through in-person field experiences. Virtual field experiences – which rely on pictures, maps, and previously collected measurements – should therefore explicitly address uncertainty or risk losing this critical aspect of students' experience. In this paper we present a framework for teaching students to assess and communicate their uncertainty, which is grounded in best expert practices for conveying uncertainty and familiar terms-of-art in geology. The starting point of our framework is the recognition of uncertainty in both geologic data and models, the latter of which we use as an encompassing term to refer to potential geological processes and structures inferred on the basis of incomplete information. We present a concrete application of the framework to geological mapping and discuss how it could enhance student learning in both traditional in-person and virtual experiences. Our framework is extensible in that it can be applied to a variety of geologic features beyond those where uncertainty is traditionally assessed, and can also be applied to geological subdisciplines.

Cristina G. Wilson et al.

Status: open (until 02 Jul 2021)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • CC1: 'Comment on se-2021-69', Bernd Andeweg, 21 May 2021 reply

Cristina G. Wilson et al.

Cristina G. Wilson et al.

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Short summary
In this contribution, we address the current gap in undergraduate geoscience education on uncertainty. We present a framework for teaching students to characterize, assess, and convey uncertainty that is suitable for both traditional in-person and virtual field experiences. The framework provides students relief from the distress of "not knowing" by providing a language to communicate uncertainty, and affirms their scientific growth by making reductions in uncertainty more conspicuous.