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Research shows the novice geologist begins an introductory geology course with alternative conceptions about minerals and other geoscience concepts. Students use their prior understanding of these concepts as the basis for future learning. If students’ frameworks include alternative conceptions about foundational geoscience concepts, these could hinder their ability to learn more factual and complicated ideas and facts in the future. It takes time to change these alternative conceptions. For this reason, instructors need to understand their students’ prior understandings of geoscience concepts at the beginning of the courses to move students to a better understanding of the material. Moreover, the potential impediments to satisfactorily learning the material may also result in lower student confidence levels in the classroom, potentially affecting their academic performances. The first lab taught to entry level college students is typically a mineral identification lab and it is usually the students’ initial introduction to minerals. An understanding of these concepts will also help students feel confident in their abilities to understand and complete their remaining labs. In the 2018 spring and fall semesters, data was collected through one-on-one interviews with 15 University of Northern Colorado (UNC) undergraduate students, three UNC graduate teaching assistants and four UNC earth science professors. This research will add to the research that concerns alternative conceptions of the novice earth science student and to better understand and reveal potential differences and similarities of the novice and expert geologist regarding their alternative conceptions, initial knowledge state, and self-efficacy in relation to mineral identification.
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