Thesis Defense – Erik daSilva, Wednesday, December 1


MST Candidate
Erik daSilva

Thesis Advisor: Christopher Gerbi

Submitted in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of
Master of Science in Teaching
December, 2010

Procedural Skills – The Missing Link in Ninth Graders’ Comprehension
of Geography’s Influence

This study involves a measurement and analysis of 9th graders’ ability to apply procedural skills to Earth systems, specifically global wind patterns. Data were collected during a unit covering the geographical influences on climate (GIOC), in which global winds play a large role. The GIOC is a practical topic students often find interesting and can tangibly relate to, but there is a lack of research supporting effective instructional strategies. High school Earth Science teachers are not necessarily climate science experts and thus access to in-depth instruction and successful pedagogy reduce the challenges in teaching this topic.

The investigated topics of interest within the GIOC focused on students’ understanding of convergent lifting and of the rain shadow effect. Both of these concepts are heavily dependent on global wind patterns, which sample students in this study covered in the units preceding the GIOC. Students were taught the progression of steps required to draw global winds, which required identifying pressure gradients and understanding the influence of the Coriolis. Within these preceding units, students displayed better than satisfactory scores on average and thus it was believed that students were competent in drawing wind patterns when entering the unit on the GIOC.

This did not turn out to be true however. Although 80% of students displayed an understanding of convergent lifting and the rain shadow effect, only 36% of all students sampled (n=132) were able to correctly process and apply global wind patterns in this new context. These results suggest that the 9th grade mind has yet to develop the cognitive skills necessary to carry out the logical, though spatially challenging, process of drawing global surface winds.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010
3:30 – 5:30 pm
307 Bryand Global Science Bldg.