Cutting Edge > Courses > Introductory Courses > Introductory Courses Workshop AGU 2008

Teaching Introductory Geoscience in the 21st Century

December 14, 2008 American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, San Francisco, CA

This workshop was co-sponsored by the AGU Committee on Education and Human Resources



Note: this workshop has already taken place. Workshop presentations and outcomes are linked from the workshop program page.

Two students working together on a computer assignment

Introductory courses at the undergraduate level play a pivotal role in the geosciences. They serve as recruiting grounds for majors and future professionals, provide critical experiences in geoscience for pre-service teachers, and offer opportunities to influence future policy makers, business people, professionals, and citizens. An intro course is also typically the only course in geoscience that most of our students will ever take.

Approaches to teaching introductory courses vary widely and include the traditional focus on physical or historical geology, interdisciplinary approaches in Earth system science or environmental science, and approaches focused on specific topics such as hazards, the geology of national parks, forensic geology, or the geology of a particular region. Introductory courses range in size from huge to small; some have labs, and some don't. Some incorporate field work, service learning, or GIS. There is clearly no one right way to teach introductory geology successfully, and each course has its own strengths and challenges.

This one-day workshop will both build on and disseminate the results of a longer workshop that took place July 14-17, 2008, at Carleton College, which focused on the critical contribution that introductory geoscience courses make to undergraduate education, showcased the innovative and exciting teaching taking place in introductory courses today, and provided an opportunity for participants to work toward making their own courses as effective as possible. The program and outcomes of the July workshop can be viewed on the workshop program page.

This workshop built on workshops on Teaching Mineralogy (1996), Teaching Petrology in the 21st Century (On the Cutting Edge, 2003), Teaching Structural Geology in the 21st Century (On the Cutting Edge, 2004), Teaching Hydrogeology in the 21st Century (On the Cutting Edge, 2005), Teaching Sedimentary Geology in the 21st Century (On the Cutting Edge, 2006), and Teaching Geophysics in the 21st Century (On the Cutting Edge, 2007). Participants will help to develop an online collection of course and teaching materials related to introductory courses similar to the ones developed for these other workshops. Instructional materials developed at the workshop will be reviewed, evaluated, and field-tested in classrooms by workshop participants.

Workshop Conveners


This workshop is part of the On the Cutting Edge professional development program for current and future geoscience faculty. The workshop was co-sponsored by the AGU Committee on Education and Human Resources and the National Association of Geoscience Teachers with funding provided by a grant from the National Science Foundation - Division of Undergraduate Education. We are part of Teach the Earth and the National Science Digital Library (NSDL).

Go to workshop overview.


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