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Teaching Paleontology in the 21st Century
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Paleontology

Author Profile
Martin B. Farley
,
martin.farley@uncp.edu

University of North Carolina-Pembroke
a
Public four-year institution, primarily undergraduate
.

Summary

Paleontology is the study of past life. This includes both the organisms themselves and a variety of problems that study of the organisms can solve. During this semester, we will consider the more common fossil groups and survey some of the problems that can be solved using fossils. The course will combine informal lecture and lab segments, and we will also arrange field trips to see fossils in their semi-native habitat.

Course URL:
Subject: Geoscience:Paleontology
Resource Type: Course Information
Grade Level: College Upper (15-16)
Course Size:

less than 15

Course Context:

This is an upper-division paleontology course that is effectively required for earth science education majors (UNCP has no geology major at present). Geology minors take the course as do other interested students, principally biology majors. It has prerequisites of Earth Science and Introduction to Biology. Many of the students do not have extensive geology coursework beyond the pre-requisite because the course is offered only every other year or of their degree progression or It is a 3-credit course usually taught in two 75 minute periods per week. Although there is no "official" lab, I put lab work into the regular period.

Course Goals:

+Students should be able to recognize major groups of macrofossils that occur commonly on the NC Coastal Plain
+Students should recognize fossil groups that are important but are not visible, either because they are microscopic or don't occur in NC
+Students should know how fossils are used to solve various kinds of biologic and geologic problems and be able to formulate approaches to new examples of problems covered in class.


How course activities and course structure help students achieve these goals:

Lab and lecture are integrated in the course, so that fossil examination is matched with lecture description. Labs on problem-solving are included as well. Some of these are designed to be usable by science education majors in their later teaching.

Skills Goals

Improvement in student ability to see patterns by graphical and other exploratory data analysis.


How course activities and course structure help students achieve these goals:

The lab work (both for looking at fossils) and problem-solving exercises help students, both by hands-on experience and in working together in small groups. Careful drawing of macrofossils is a valuable way to learn their features, so I allow time for that. I also have students give presentations or write papers (depending on the year) on using fossils to solve scientific problems.

I assess student learning by frequent quizzes, their creation of a lab notebook that includes a record of all lab activities, their presentation/paper, and a final exam.

Assessment

I assess student learning by frequent quizzes, their creation of a lab notebook that includes a record of all lab activities, their presentation/paper, and a final exam. The final exam is relatively low in weight, but is comprehensive.

Syllabus:

Paleontology Course Syllabus (Microsoft Word 42kB Jun4 09)

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