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The Evolution of Earth through Time

Philip Stokes
,
Department of Geosciences, University of Arizona
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This activity was selected for the On the Cutting Edge Exemplary Teaching Collection

Resources in this top level collection a) must have scored Exemplary or Very Good in all five review categories, and must also rate as “Exemplary” in at least three of the five categories. The five categories included in the peer review process are

  • Scientific Accuracy
  • Alignment of Learning Goals, Activities, and Assessments
  • Pedagogic Effectiveness
  • Robustness (usability and dependability of all components)
  • Completeness of the ActivitySheet web page

For more information about the peer review process itself, please see http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/review.html.



This page first made public: Feb 22, 2012

Summary

This activity is designed for large freshman courses (>200 students) and is used in-class. The activity requires a short (15 minute) overview of Earth history before students have the opportunity to work through various questions and problems. Tasks include simple math problems, critical thinking questions, and include place-based examples of geological situations.

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Context

Audience

The activity is used in an undergraduate introductory geoscience course at the University of Arizona. Students in the course are generally freshman and are non-science majors.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

The activity does not require a specific set of skills from students. The math problems are at a level that most freshmen should be able to solve with a calculator, cell phone, or without the aid of technology. Basically, the students must use addition, subtraction, and division to solve problems with percentages. The completion of this activity requires only a minimal understanding of Earth history or geological events.

How the activity is situated in the course

This activity was designed along with workshop participant Jessica Kapp from the University of Arizona. This activity was created as part of a project to implement our own set of lecture tutorial activities after considering the success of similar activities in large astronomy courses. The activity is in a draft stage and will be revised and tested before ultimate publication.

Goals

Content/concepts goals for this activity

The primary goal of this activity is for students to discover, on their own, the age of assorted human and natural events relative to the age of the Earth. Other goals include giving the students an introduction to some geoscience concepts (e.g. disasters) and helping to polish their basic math skills.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

The activity strives to require students to utilize a variety of higher order thinking skills. On a simple level, students must remember the age of the Earth to answer some of the questions. As the activity scaffolds, students must understand the included information and apply it to solving simple word problems. Later, students are asked to analyze/evaluate geological scenarios and a student debate.

Other skills goals for this activity

Students completing this activity usually work in groups of 2 or 3.

Description of the activity/assignment

This activity is designed for large freshman courses (>200 students) and is used in-class. The activity requires a short (15 minute) overview of Earth history before students have the opportunity to work through various questions and problems. Tasks include simple math problems, critical thinking questions, and include place-based examples of geological situations for Arizona and California.

Students completing the activity will have knowledge of Earth history, knowledge of some geological disasters, and will have learned several different perspectives of timescales that affect various events on Earth.

Determining whether students have met the goals

Questions from this activity are included, in slightly altered forms, on exams. We are also planning to create a concept inventory test for this activity to use in the future.

More information about assessment tools and techniques.

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