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Teaching Geophysics in the 21st Century
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Sequenced writing assignment

Steven C. Jaume
,
College of Charleston
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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: Jul 5, 2007

Summary

An iterative term paper where students include new geophysical data in each new version. This allows the instructor to work closely with the student and point out how different geophysical datasets constrain crustal structure.

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Context

Audience

Upper level undergraduate course in geophysics
Designed for a geophysics course

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Students need to have a basic understanding of the geophysical method being used in the papers they are reading.

How the activity is situated in the course

This is a cumulative project over the course of the semester.

Goals

Content/concepts goals for this activity

Some major concepts I try to get across with this assignment are: a) there is only one Earth; i.e.; the different geophysical datasets are coming from the same piece of crust/mantle, and b) each geophysical technique constrains the range of possible answers but does not provide a unique solution.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Students are asked to compare/contrast results derived from different geophysical techniques and attempt to synthesize these into a "single model".

Other skills goals for this activity

Literature research, comprehension of technical material, writing skills.

Description of the activity/assignment

This is a term paper submitted as a series of iterations over the course of a semester. Students, with guidance from the professor, select a region and find papers in the literature describing geophysical data and interpreted results. Each iteration adds a new set of geophysical data (following the sequence covered in the course) and the students gradually build a geophysical cross section across their region of interest. What is effective about this assignment is that it both exposes student to current literature and allows them to compare/contrast the results derived from different geophysical techniques in the same area. This exposes students to the advantages and trade-offs between different techniques, and how combinations of geophysical data are more effective at illuminating crustal properties than any individual technique alone. It also reinforces one of the basic concepts I emphasize in the lectures—that variation in physical characteristics (density, magnetic susceptibility, seismic velocity, etc.) between sandstone/basalt/granite can be used to characterize them.
Has minimal/no quantitative component

Determining whether students have met the goals

Students are evaluated on the paper format, accurate descriptions of the geophysical data presented, writing style and degree to which they properly synthesize the material. Also, it is noted whether or not they revise material in earlier versions based on feedback from me.

More information about assessment tools and techniques.

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Other Materials

Supporting references/URLs

R. J. Lillie, Whole Earth Geophysics, Prentice Hall, 1999 (textbook).

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