Geoscience education research project
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: Aug 8, 2014
Skills and concepts that students must have mastered
How the activity is situated in the course
Content/concepts goals for this activity
Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity
Synthesis of ideas
Evaluation of results
Generation of conclusions and recommendations
Critique of peer work
Other skills goals for this activity
Working in groups
Description and Teaching Materials
The supporting materials for this activity included are: 1) Directions (Microsoft Word 77kB Aug8 14), 2) Handouts of checkpoint activities (Microsoft Word 51kB Aug8 14) supporting the project, 3) Evaluation rubric (Microsoft Word 53kB Aug11 14).
Students are given the directions at the beginning of the semester. These detailed directions tell them the intermediate checkpoint deadlines as well as what they are expected to do at each step. Throughout the semester, they complete a scientific research project from start to finish, beginning with coming up with a research question and ending with presenting their results. The directions are written for students who do not have experience with doing these different components of scientific research.
There are four checkpoint deadlines throughout the semester where students are expected to complete a different step of the project. Activities are associated with each of these four steps. These activities are designed so students can give each other feedback on their progress, which helps to alleviate the burden on the professor.
An evaluation rubric is provided for the final powerpoint presentation. In addition, students evaluate and give feedback to each other on their final presentations, and that form is included as well. Students are not expected to produce publishable-quality results, but their results generally are interesting!
The key to this project is that students are doing research, and this process relates to the many fields within the geosciences. The detailed directions and level of results expected of students make it so all instructors can use this activity, not just ones who are knowledgeable about geoscience education.
Teaching Notes and Tips
Additional information about each of the checkpoint Activities
- Timing of Activities – The timing during the semester of the checkpoint activities can vary from the dates given in the Directions. The times given were chosen based on two considerations: 1) Making sure students had enough time between activities to complete the required work, and 2) Seeing which of my labs could be adjusted to have a little extra time for the activity. You may adjust the timing of the checkpoint activities to fit your schedule.
- Research Question Activity– 30 minutes – Students work individually and then in groups looking at example research questions provided and then critiquing each other's questions. Regarding the example research questions, the ones that need improvement are (a) because is too vague and open to be a good question and (d) because it uses jargon that students are not familiar with (although this might be taken care of with a good questionnaire question). After students finished revising their research question, I collected the questions and wrote my own comments on them as well. The time involved for me to review and comment on the questions was about 2 hours for ~30 students.
- Questionnaire Activity– 30 minutes – Students work individually and then in groups looking at example questionnaire questions provided and then used the guidelines provided (cut the page in half) to critique each other's questionnaires. Regarding the example questionnaire questions, the ones that need improvement are (a) because is too vague and open to be a good question, (c) because it uses jargon that students are not familiar with, and possibly (e) because the numbers don't necessary give a good indication of student thoughts about time. After students finalized their questionnaire, I collected them and wrote my own comments on them as well. The time involved for me to review and comment on the questionnaires was about 2 hours for ~30 students.
- Data Analysis and Interpretation Activity– 15 minutes – Immediately before the activity, I modeled to the students my thought process of creating a graph with some data previously collected. Students frequently have a difficult time creating graphs, so they may need additional support with this activity. I did not collect this activity or add my own comments.
- Slides Activity– 20 minutes – I have a separate demonstration and mini-presentation earlier in the semester where I give students a handout and specific feedback on creating slides, so by the time students create slides for the project, they already have experience with creating effective slides. I did not collect this activity or add my own comments.
In order to continue the emphasis on the process of science, I recommend that some sort of follow-up reflection is included for students to respond to. Examples of questions to ask are how the student personally benefitted, how it was the same as or different from expectations, how their ideas of how science is done changed, how their attitudes towards science changed, how this project affected their knowledge and attitudes compared to a more traditional book or internet research project, etc.
- Presentation format– The directions and guidelines here are given for a powerpoint presentation as a final product. However, it can easily be modified to be a poster presentation or a written paper, depending on the class size and the goals of the class. Both of those would require different supports to ensure the students can effectively communicate their ideas. For students in my class who wanted to do an Honors Project, I had them write a scientific paper in addition to giving an oral presentation.
- Data collection– The directions are for students to use a questionnaire with one question to collect their data. It was done this way to simplify the process for the students and instructor. Students may want to include more than one question on their questionnaire, and that is fine, as long as they know it's not required and they will have more data to analyze (although they will also likely have more interesting results). In addition, depending on the student body and goals of the class, student could conduct interviews to collect data, instead of or in addition to the questionnaire.