Principles of Earth Science Laboratory (GEOL1101)
Implementor(s): Dr. Jeff Wilson
at The University of Texas at Brownsville
Anticipated Start Date: Jan 2012 (Semester)
Challenges to using math in introductory geoscienceOur students are poorly prepared for math and science, due to the economic deprivation in the region. Our students are 94% Mexican-American and more than half are first-generation college students. 10% of our students commute from Mexico on a daily basis. We have language writing issues, but generally math skills are similar. Typically, most students in this course have completed nothing more advanced than college algebra. The students are largely at the same level of math skills. We also have a substantial number of students that are first-generation in higher education.
More about your geoscience courseMy course is one of the alternatives for non-science majors in completing their science requirement. The major topics that are covered include cosmology, the electromagnetic spectrum, volcanoes, earthquakes, plate tectonics, and climate change. I also try to develop 'subjective' skills such as data analysis, critical thinking, scientific method, multiple hypothesis testing, etc. I rarely have science majors, but at times a student will move into our major after completion of the course. The class size is usually 50-75 students. Labs are no more than 30 per class. I do not have a regular TA and I am one of three professors that teach the lab.
Inclusion of quantitative content pre-TMYNAt present, there is almost no quantitative content. We do several exercises in laboratory that deal with collecting data and analyzing graphs and figures, but the math between these two bookends is essentially a 'black box'. Excel or Google Docs Spreadsheets perform the work that occurs within the black box.
Which Math You Need Modules will/do you use in your course?
- Graphing/Plotting Points
- Graphing/Best Fit Line
- Graphing/Reading a Point From a Curve
Strategies for successfully implementing The Math You Need
In order to implement The Math You Need in the Earth Science laboratory, we will stagger three SERC TMYN graphing modules throughout the semester, introducing them just prior to use in the lab. We will start with a pre-semester evaluation during the first day of lab in order to assess baseline skills. Several weeks later, prior to our first data-rich lab, two modules will be taken: 'plotting points' and 'constructing the best-fit line'. We will then complete an existing lab in the course, 'Mighty big shoes you have: data, graphs, and testing multiple hypotheses'. Two weeks later, the students will complete the TMYN module 'Reading a point from a curve.' then use this to complete the existing earthquake lab. Two weeks later, we will assess all of these skills in an excel-learning lab on the Vostok Ice Core. At the close of the semester, we will assess overall learning and retention of skills through a WAMAP comprehensive quiz. Below is an outline of the plan of implementation.