Teach the Earth > Geoscience in the Field > Field Experiences > Browse Field Experiences > Early Emersion: A Sophomore Level Field Project-Based Core Course in Geology

Early Emersion: A Sophomore Level Field Project-Based Core Course in Geology

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Keith Klepeis University of Vermont
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This activity was selected for the On the Cutting Edge Reviewed Teaching Collection

This activity has received positive reviews in a peer review process involving five review categories. The five categories included in the process are

  • Scientific Accuracy
  • Alignment of Learning Goals, Activities, and Assessments
  • Pedagogic Effectiveness
  • Robustness (usability and dependability of all components)
  • Completeness of the ActivitySheet web page

For more information about the peer review process itself, please see http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/review.html.


This page first made public: Nov 5, 2004

Field Geology is an investigative course conducted in the field and computer laboratory without formal exams. The field excursions challenge groups of students to apply understanding to new or unknown geologic environments preserved in Vermont.
Students complete several professional-style reports that synthesize geologic information collected by teams of 2-3 students.
GSA Poster (Acrobat (PDF) 31.5MB Nov5 04)

Learning Goals

Content/Concepts:
Geology 101 is a project-oriented course. There are no examinations. Final grades are based on 4 to 5 written reports, numerous field projects, field notebooks, class assignments, and class participation. This last item is based on the student's understanding of the material and concepts developed throughout the course. I assume that the students have had only 1 course in Introductory Geology. The course emphasizes concepts and analytical reasoning and we develop the necessary geological terminology during the semester.

Geologic Skills:
  • To develop an understanding of earth materials and their spatial relationship in field outcrops, and an ability to document and interpret such materials in the context of global earth processes.
  • To develop an understanding of the scientific method and an understanding of geologic processes within the framework of plate tectonics using local geologic outcrops as data sources.
  • To develop an ability to apply mapping and field measurement techniques to understand and interpret new or unknown geologic environments.
  • To develop an ability to use mathematics in field mapping, drafting, data reduction, and graphical representation of both three- and four-dimensional information.

Higher Order Thinking Skills:
  • Field Geology is an investigative course conducted in the field and computer laboratory without formal exams. The field excursions challenge groups of students to apply understanding to new or unknown geologic environments preserved in Vermont.
  • Students complete several professional-style reports that synthesize geologic information collected by teams of 2-3 students. Reports include maps, graphics, and interpretive text. The field reports follow a logical progression through the scientific method thought process.
  • The course involves numerous field excursions to local rock, sediment, and soil outcrops. At specific sites students collect and interpret numerical data in the form of compass readings, surface geometry measurements, vertical profiles, subsurface geometric projections, survey points, length and angular measurements, latitude and longitude measurements, and elevation measurements in the field and from maps.
  • Other detailed geologic information is collected using mapping, sketching, and orienteering skills, and reducing these data into graphical presentations using computer technology. Mapping exercises require students to scale features from field observations to map and notebook representations.
  • Oral presentations are conducted using Graphics & PowerPoint software following the format of a professional meeting.
  • Calculations, trigonometry, three-dimensional graphs, basemaps and geo-referencing techniques are used in the field reports and oral presentations.

Other Skills:

Context

Instructional Level:
Field course designed for approximately 20 sophomore students

Skills Needed:
I assume they have only one course in introductory geology,

Role of Activity in a Course:
This is an investigative course conducted in the field and computer laboratory without formal exams. Final grades are based on 4 to 5 written reports, numerous field projects, field notebooks, class assignments, and class participation. This last item is based on the student's understanding of the material and concepts developed throughout the course. The course emphasizes concepts and analytical reasoning and we develop the necessary geological terminology during the semester.

Data, Tools and Logistics

Required Tools:
We use a class webpage, Adobe Illustrator and Powerpoint software.

Logistical Challenges:
The course requires a substantial amount of field time. The class meets every Tuesday and Thursday afternoon from 11 AM to 4 PM. We are aided by the proximity of interesting outcrops near to the university (within 0.5 hr. drive).

Evaluation

Evaluation Goals:
Extracted student comments from the evaluation form include:
  • The fieldwork and computer lab work were very valuable, many new skills learning.
  • I learned how to approach analyzing an outcrop area.
  • Learning in the field!
  • The field knowledge and skills in this class were priceless. They will be useful no matter which field or job one aspires to.
  • Time in the field developing a foundation of field geology. Also creating figures and drafts of the data collected.
  • Class taught us skills that can be applied to the real world.
  • I could see and understand what was happening
  • The fieldwork was beneficial hands-on learning

Evaluation Techniques:
Since the Geology Department adopted a uniform course evaluation form in 2000 and could begin calculating averages, the Field Geology course has consistently received above average evaluations from students:
Year course grade departmental average
2003 10.4 9.3
2002 10.2 8.9
2001 10.1 8.78

Description

Conclusions:
1. Students can handle doing this early in the curriculum
because of the engaging format of the class (minimal lectures and lots of hands-on field projects).
2. It allows other classes to build on skills already mastered. This allows us to teach other classes (structure, geomorph) at a more advanced level than is normally possible because of the material covered in Field class.
3. With this class alone the student has a number of hours in the field approaching that of some field camps.
4. The positive reaction to early skill acquisition enhances the student's opinion of the value of majoring in geology. "I really am learning something useful and interesting that I am able to apply not only to geology but also to other disciplines."
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