Using student conceptions about groundwater as resources for teaching about aquifers
Despite the need for public understanding about groundwater resources, groundwater is among those topics that instructors most struggle to teach at pre-college and college levels. Although constructivist theories suggest student-held conceptions can be used as teaching tools for active learning, there remains a question about how to draw out and incorporate these conceptions into actual class instruction. This study aims to answer the question: How can student conceptions about groundwater be used as teaching tools by drawing on a resource perspective of learning and backward design? The work utilizes the design study methodology. College-student work, college-classroom activities, and instructional records of a college-level instructor were examined to reconstruct and describe an instructional sequence about groundwater that was iteratively designed over five years using a resource perspective and backward design. This study helps bridge the gap between theory and practice by describing the design of an instructional sequence about groundwater and analyzing it within the framework of a resource perspective. General best practices, such as prior knowledge checks and predict-observe-discuss demonstrations, are translated into domain-specific instructional activities for teaching about groundwater and aquifers. Students’ responses to such activities reveal student-held conceptions and can be used to further guide instruction and inform ongoing curriculum design. Student-held conceptions are a key component of the proposed resource-perspective-based backward design model for instructional design.