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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:

Higher Order Thinking Skills:

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:

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."