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Designing an Effective Paleontology Course
1. Set goals
Explore example learning goals for Paleontology from your colleagues. Learn more about setting effective course goals in the Course Design Tutorial. You can also explore course goals from others' Paleontology courses using the syllabi available in the course collection.
2. Consider assessment options
Aligning your assessment strategies with the goals of your course is an essential part of the design process. You can learn more about assessment in the section about Assessing Student Learning in the Course Design tutorial and through our module on Observing and Assessing Student Learning.
3. Select pedagogies and specific teaching activities
The pedagogic techniques highlighted below can provide inspiration as you consider various approaches that will help your students achieve your course goals. The resource collections are organized to provide a rich set of materials to draw from in constructing the specific set of learning experiences you want for your students. Finally, explore the more in-depth information and ideas available in special topics.
Selected Pedagogical Approaches
Paleontology courses help students build a variety of qualitative and quantitative skills and critical thinking abilities. In addition to the page linked below, a selection of pedagogies that lend themselves to skill development can be found in the Teaching Methods collection.
- Paleontology in the Field: A number of workshop presenters and participants have shared their expertise in teaching using field work. Here, you can benefit from their experiences by exploring their presentations and teaching activities.
Once you've identified the core learning goals for your course, you can use them to focus your search for relevant materials in our resource collections. The materials listed below reflect the contributions of faculty members from across the country.
- Course descriptions, including course learning goals, syllabi, and supporting information.
- Course design approaches, from participants of the 2009 workshop on Teaching Paleontology, compiles thoughts on the advantages and disadvantages of four different approaches, along with suggestions for successful implementation. You can also view their survey results, which provide a snapshot of the demographics on paleontology courses, information on student misconceptions, topics that students find particularly difficult, and recent advances that should be incorporated into paleontology courses.
- Teaching activities, including classroom activities, lab exercises, problem sets, and more.
- Museum activity ideas: Participants from the 2009 workshop brainstormed ideas for utilizing museums to teach paleontology.
- Additional resources, including websites and other resources recommended by faculty who teach paleontology.
- Resources from Integrating Research and Education, a website with educational modules for use by teachers, students and researchers:
- Geochemical Instrumentation and Analysis: This module, from Integrating Research and Education, provides an on-line tutorial of the analytical techniques commonly used to characterize geological materials. The goal of these pages is to help novices (such as students or scientists working out of their field) to gain an understanding of mineralogical, petrological and geochemical analytical techniques.
- Geochemical Instrument Registry: From the Petrology module, this registry provides faculty with a place to share information about analytical instruments such as SEM, ICP-MS, x-ray diffraction and more. If you would like to share access to the equipment at your institution, or if you would like to find access to instruments at other institutions, this is a great resource for you.
Workshops and Events
- Teaching Paleontology in the 21st Century: This workshop was held July 30-August 3, 2009 and took place at Cornell University and the Paleontological Research Institution in Ithaca, NY. The workshop program contains links to all workshop presentations.
- Contribute Materials: We encourage faculty to contribute course descriptions, teaching activities, and other materials to continue to build our collections.
- Join our email list. Share insights, ask questions, or network with other faculty. The link above will also provide access for list members to the email list archives and allow you to unsubscribe.