MARGINS Data in the Classroom > For Mini Lessons Authors and Testers > Mini Lesson Testers Directions

Mini Lesson Testers Directions

Introduction and Background

These mini-lessons have been in development by a dedicated team of authors. The GeoPRISMS-hosted MARGINS Mini-Lesson Project (a.k.a., "Bringing NSF MARGINS Continental Margins Research Into the Undergraduate Curriculum") was designed to integrate the successful decade of NSF MARGINS research into the upper-level undergraduate geoscience curriculum.

The mini-lesson authors have worked as a collaborative team, advised by our colleagues at the Science Education Resource Center (SERC) at Carleton College, to develop coherent teaching modules that are data-rich and experiential, and informed by the best practices in geoscience education. These exercises are designed to give students hands-on opportunities to work with real observations and to draw conclusions from their analyses and discussions. Given the mix of authors and topics, the mini-lessons take a variety of paths to this objective - as instructors, you are ideally suited to decide how best to present these materials to your class, and how to evaluate the success of the exercises. We are most keen to receive your feedback, so that we can refine the lessons, and enhance the assessment tools available to future users.

Registration and Access

  1. Set up a SERC account (if you don't have one already) using the email you provided when you applied
  2. When logged in to your SERC account, you will have access to the Mini-Lesson Descriptions where you can browse the mini-lesson collection.

Mini-Lesson Structure & Components

Depending on initiative and topic, some of the mini-lessons are designed as stand-alone, whereas others can be sequenced to define longer teaching modules. The intentions of the authors and teams are explained in the mini-lesson summaries.

Each lesson generally includes some introductory and wrap up materials (in the form of powerpoints or advice to instructors), as well as specific data sets and exercises designed for student analysis and manipulation. Some lessons require physical samples (e.g., petrographic hand samples and/or thin sections), which will be provided upon request (pending availability - we have a limited supply). Other lessons provide detailed instructions about how to set-up simple in-class experiments to convey concepts, and how to relate these to geologic processes. Some of the mini-lessons have fairly substantial advice about assessing students' achievements, and we are interested to know how well those work for you. Others have only preliminary assessment materials, and we invite you to share with us student assessment techaniquest that you develop, try out, and evaluate during your use of the mini-lessons. Some of these may be incorporated into the final version of the mini-lesson with your permission.

Note, although upper-level undergraduate students are the main target of these exercises, you will find that some of the materials can be adapted to accommodate other levels of experience as well; however, you may need to provide a bit more introductory material. Again, we are very interested in hearing how you have used the mini-lessons, adapted them for different courses, and how they worked.

Feedback Forms

As noted above, we are extremely interested in receiving your feedback about the mini-lessons: e.g., their ease of use, student's grasp of the material and concepts (before and after), any modifications you introduced, and specific assessments of student achievements. Your comments and feedback will help us refine and improve these mini-lessons for final public dissemination. To facilitate your feedback, we have prepared survey and feedback forms as an online form or it can be submitted as a Word document. We encourage you to fill one of these out following your application of the mini-lessons.

Data Collection (everyone) and IRB (for those willing)

The student assessment materials provided with or developed for the mini-lessons will help us understand how well the materials worked in your classroom. These materials should help you gain a sense of success, and can help identify areas that need improvement. We would like all testers to collect this generic student data, to be used to refine the final mini-lessons.

If you are also able to gain IRB (Institutional Review Board) approval (for US institutions), we can also use your anonymous student data in publications that evaluate the project success as a whole. Some of you indicated your interest in doing this on the application form. We provide some information about obtaining IRB Approval below:

Because the student assessment data is being used for research, we need to consider how human research guidelines apply. Many institutions have Institutional Review Boards that oversee this sort of data collection. Each institution implements this differently so you'll need to explore the situation at your institution. Rice University has approved the MARGINS Mini-Lesson Project as EXEMPT (documentation can be provided up on request). This approval may be sufficient for you to provide the collected student data to the MARGINS Mini-Lesson Project. However, each person collecting student data needs to check with their institution as the institution may require a separate IRB application.


Although Rice University approved the application as EXEMPT, you still need to inform your students about this research so that the students have the option to not have their student assessments included. This can be completed in two ways and you will need to select the option that aligns with your institution's interpretation of the EXEMPT status:

  1. Signed consent: In this case copies of signed consent forms (with student names) would need to be sent to and filed with the MARGINS Mini-Lesson Project at Rice University, as the means to ensure that students are informed and have the option to opt-out.

    Rice University student consent form (pdf) (Acrobat (PDF) 66kB Feb25 14)

    Rice University student consent form (word) (Microsoft Word 36kB Feb25 14)

  2. Implied consent: In this case, a list of students who have opted out should be provided to the MARGINS Mini-Lesson Project at Rice. Sample text can be provided upon request, but may require specific wording for your institution..

If your institution does not have an Institution Review Board then the Rice University IRB approval may be sufficient. You will still need to provide students a consent form or letter so they have an opportunity to opt out (see above), and share the Rice Exempt letter as well as the student consent form you will be using with the appropriate office at your institution.

Rice University IRB Exempt Approval Documentation (Acrobat (PDF) 140kB Apr1 14)


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