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Teaching Geomorphology in the 21st Century
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Cutting Edge > Geomorphology > Teaching Activities > Data, Accuracy and Precision

Data, Accuracy and Precision

Scott Linneman
,
Western Washington University
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This activity has benefited from input from faculty educators beyond the author through a review and suggestion process.

This review took place as a part of a faculty professional development workshop where groups of faculty reviewed each others' activities and offered feedback and ideas for improvements. To learn more about the process On the Cutting Edge uses for activity review, see http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/review.html.

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: Apr 30, 2008

Summary

This first lab exercise requires lower-division geomorph students to generate and compare three topographic data sets for a small feature on campus.

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Context

Audience

First exercise in lower-division geomorphology course.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Basic spreadsheet operations.

How the activity is situated in the course

First group exercise.

Goals

Content/concepts goals for this activity

The overall objective of this lab is to help students develop a critical mind about gathering and evaluating data. This sort of approach is vital to doing well in this class, and in any science. More specifically, the objectives are to learn:
1. how to use three different tools (methods) to collect quantitative position data about a landscape: a level and tape; a GPS (global positioning system); and a total station.
2. how to compile these data on a spreadsheet, and then plot them as a topographic map or surface using computer software.
3. how to evaluate the quality (accuracy and precision) of those data by comparing the two maps to what you know is actually out there.
4. finally, give an assessment of the benefits and limitations of each method for collecting data.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Evaluating quantitative data.

Other skills goals for this activity

Using different surveying methods;
Using data analysis software (Excel & Surfer);
Writing brief reports;

Description of the activity/assignment

In Jigsaw format, groups of 3 students divide up and each collects topographic data for a small landform using a different technique (tape and level; handheld GPS; Total Station). When they re-group they compare data quantity and quality using spreadsheets and a mapping program. They write a group report comparing the strengths and weaknesses of the three methods.
Designed for a geomorphology course
Addresses student fear of quantitative aspect and/or inadequate quantitative skills
Addresses student misconceptions

Determining whether students have met the goals

Their report for this lab consists of a short (< 1 typed page) comparative description of the accuracy, precision and efficiency of three methods. They may include as many supporting tables and figures as needed, so long as they are labeled, numbers and well-organized. Reports are graded using the "Measurement Lab Report Grading Rubric."

More information about assessment tools and techniques.

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