Sequential reading/writing assignment
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 page first made public: Jun 9, 2009
Although this exercise is taken from a paleontology class, it can be adapted for any intermediate or advanced classes on any topic. It can also work for introductory classes with motivated students. Repeated exposure increases effectiveness.
Skills and concepts that students must have mastered
A basic understanding of taphonomy
A basic understanding of biostratrigraphy, including concepts like Signor-Lipps
Background on the K-T extinction and subsequent recovery
However, different reading topics would require different skills or concepts.
How the activity is situated in the course
Content/concepts goals for this activity
For any topic: will vary by topic, but centers on understanding development of scientific understanding
Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity
Other skills goals for this activity
Practice clear and cogent writing
Description of the activity/assignment
In particular, the last two of the four assignments are designed as part of a multi-step process. Each student is assigned a particular reading for which he or she will be the primary discussant in a class discussion. Two things are required to make this discussion work and to achieve the (hoped for) "aha" moments for the students.
Students must take the time to read and understand the paper they've received. It's useful, particularly if students are just starting out reading primary literature, to discuss how to approach reading a journal article. Maybe most important is inculcating the idea that most people don't read straight through a paper, that multiple readings are important, and that it's not like reading a novel – it takes time to absorb.
On discussion day, have students talk about the papers in chronological sequence. There should be back and forth discussion, of course, but when this process works right, (which is most of the time, in my experience), the stepwise introduction and discussion of the papers allows students to see how the problem was originally framed, how it developed, and how new information changes interpretations (and that there may not be a clear resolution).
After the discussion, hand out essay assignments tailored to the skills and knowledge you want them to acquire.
Determining whether students have met the goals
Download teaching materials and tips
- Activity Description/Assignment:Student handout for Bug Creek Reading/Writing Assignment (Acrobat (PDF) 113kB Jun9 09)
- Instructors Notes:
- Solution Set:
Archibald, J. D. and W. A. Clemens. 1984. Mammal evolution near the Cretaceous-Tertiary boundary. In: W. A. Berggren and J. A. Van Couvering, (eds.) Catastrophes and Earth History; the new uniformitarianism. Princeton University Press, Princeton, N.J., p. 339-371.
Archibald, J. D., D. E. Fastovsky, and R. H. Dott. 1986. Comment and Reply on "Sedimentology, stratigraphy, and extinctions during the Cretaceous-Paleogene transition at Bug Creek, Montana. Geology 14(10):892-894.
Fastovsky, D. E., and R. H. Dott. 1986. Sedimentology, stratigraphy, and extinctions during the Cretaceous-Paleogene transition at Bug Creek, Montana. Geology 14:279-282.
Lofgren, D. L., C. L. Hotton, and A. C. Runkel. 1990. Reworking of Cretaceous dinosaurs into Paleocene channel deposits, upper Hell Creek Formation, Montana. Geology 18: 874-877.
Lofgren, D. L. 1995. The Bug Creek Problem and the Cretaceous-Tertiary Transition at McGuire Creek, Montana. University of California Publications in Geological Sciences 140. 185 pp.
Sloan, R. E., J. K. Rigby, L. M. V. Valen, and D. Gabriel. 1986. Gradual dinosaur extinction and simultaneous radiation in the Hell Creek Formation. Science 232(4750):629-633.
Sloan, R. E., and L. V. Valen. 1965. Cretaceous Mammals from Montana. Science 148(3667):220-227.
Smit, J., and S. Van Der Kaars. 1984. Terminal Cretaceous extinctions in the Hell Creek Area, Montana: Compatible with Catastrophic Extinction. Science 223(4641):1177-1179.