Field-based instruction as part of a balanced geoscience curriculum at Washington and Lee University
Elizabeth Knapp Washington and Lee University Geology Department
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
Our Geology department traditionally has had a strong field emphasis. We are striving to strike a balance in our curriculum. We emphasize geological skills, field observation and data collection, laboratory and analytical skills, computation and modeling, and scientific writing and presentation.
GSA Poster (PowerPoint 5.8MB Nov5 04)
Exercise 1: GIS and mapping
Exercise 2: weathering process
Exercise 3: redox processes
Exercise 1: collecting GPS data; learning compass use
Higher Order Thinking Skills:
Exercise 2: collecting sediments
Exercise 3: field sampling, sample processing
Exercise 1: Determining uncertainty, drawing conclusions
Exercise 2: developing research questions and hypotheses
Exercise 3: Drawing conclusions
Exercise 1: GIS, field instruments
Exercise 2: scientific experimentation, collaboration, scientific writing
Exercise 3: analytical techniques, calculation and interpretation
Exercise 1: undergraduate entry level
Exercise 2 and 3: undergraduate major
In exercise 1 students are entering college students. They will have had exposure to a computer but are taught the other skills during the exercise;
Role of Activity in a Course:
In exercise 2 and 3 the students have had introductory geology.
Each of the exerices (1, 2, 3) are part of a multi-lab period exercise.
Data, Tools and LogisticsRequired Tools:
Exercise 1: compass, GPS unit, GIS (Arcmap)
Exercise 2: basic laboratory consumables (flasks, DI water, acid, balance, etc.)
Exercise 3: furnace for adapted lab
Exercise 1: Students may be overwhelmed with the computer at first.
We attempt to balance skills across the curriculum. We want to know if our students are getting adequate exposure to the skills we try to teach.
We do a skills matrix at the end of each course and a year-end departmental evaluation.
Learning in a hands-on field setting is the best way to reinforce topics learned in the classroom and to demonstrate the interrelationships of the science. We view fieldwork, however, as just the beginning of geoscience education. A crucial aspect of field geology is making observations and synthesizing the data collected. We attempt to make an integrated approach to our teaching. In the examples to follow we present a range of activities from our curriculum.