Teach the Earth > Teaching Methods > Lecture Tutorials > Examples > The Function of Stegosaurus Plates Lecture Tutorial

The Function of Stegosaurus Plates Lecture Tutorial

Karen M. Kortz, Community College of Rhode Island

Jessica J. Smay, San Jose City College

This material is replicated on a number of sites as part of the SERC Pedagogic Service Project


This short assignment is designed for students to work in pairs after a brief lecture introducing the general topics of dinosaurs or hypotheses, or the more specific topic of Stegosaurus. Using the example of Stegosaurus plates, students learn how scientists make hypotheses about the functions of features on extinct life forms. The Lecture Tutorial can also be used in a general sense to help students understand the use of evidence in forming and evaluating hypotheses. They use the observations given to determine which hypothesis is most likely.

Learning Goals

Students will be able to explain why the Stegosaurus has plates, and describe how we know the function of peculiar aspects of dinosaurs. Higher-order thinking skills include critical thinking and determining which hypothesis observations support. Working in groups is another skill students develop.

Context for Use

This activity can be used in an introductory historical geology course or dinosaur course of any size with no special equipment necessary. Students in groups complete this 10-15 minute Lecture Tutorial worksheet after a short lecture on the topic during class. Lecture Tutorials are most effective when used frequently in a course. Read more about how to use Lecture Tutorials

Description and Teaching Materials

Teaching Notes and Tips

For full discussion of how to use Lecture Tutorials, please check the Lecture Tutorials Main Page


Lecture Tutorial worksheets are designed to help student confront their misconceptions, but generally they are not graded. Selected questions are reviewed and answered by the instructor during class. Rather than grade the Lecture Tutorials, exam questions covering that material can be used as assessment.

References and Resources

For resources, please check the Lecture Tutorials References Page