Review Criteria Developed by Workshop Participants
The criteria comprise a list of questions that one can ask about an existing or developing activity to assess its effectiveness in promoting quantitative skills literacy within a geoscience context. We stress that this is a work in progress, and would value contributions from the community to this discussion of what constitutes a good quantitative activity.
- Are the quantitative and geoscience goals central and important? This question addresses whether the skill and/or geoscience concept being taught in an activity is, in fact, one that is important for the student to master for a particular discipline. Strong activities promote practice in key quantitative skills in the context of important geoscience concepts.
- Does the activity lead to better problem solving? This question gets to the heart of whether the activity is likely to indeed lead to an improvement in a student's ability to solve quantitative problems. Key features of activities that promote problem solving are that they
- help students identify the knowledge that they bring to a problem that is likely to be useful;
- promote mastery of skills or strategies that are central to solving geoscience problems typical of those in the discipline being studied;
- assist students in recognizing when the skill or strategy is likely to be applicable to a problem;
- draw attention to the types of strategies that are being used to check for progress toward the solution both in the specific (answer verification) and in the abstract (evaluation of need to switch to a different approach to the problem) and
- instill students with the confidence needed to approach and solve a quantitative problem.
- Are the quantitative skills integrated with geoscience concepts in a way that makes sense for the learning environment and supports learning both quantitative skills and geoscience? This question seeks to determine whether the integration of geoscience and quantitative skills is accomplished in a way that benefits both areas. Strategies could range from tight integration by teaching a quantitative skill in the context of a particular geoscience problem, to a sequenced approach where geoscience data are used to teach quantitative skills that are then applied to a specific problem.
- Does the methodology promote learning? This question looks at whether the activity incorporates effective strategies based on learning theory and research. For example, Does the activity motivate and engage students? Does it build on what they know and address their initial beliefs? Does it use multiple representations of quantitative and mathematical concepts and data? Does it include opportunities for reflection, discussion, and synthesis? Does it provide opportunities for students/faculty to assess learning and confirm that they are on the right track? Are there opportunities for students to iterate and improve their understanding incrementally?
- Are the materials provided complete and helpful? This questions addresses nuts and bolts issues about whether the materials provided to students, either written, oral, or otherwise, are successful in providing the context, motivations and goals of the activity, and that instructions and questions are clear.
- Are the quantitative and geologic goals important ones for geoscience students to hear?
For example, important quantitative skills include:
- Problem Solving
- Mastery/practice of important skill
- Modeling
- Relating theory to observation
- Does the activity lead to better problem solving?
- Students can better recognize the resources they have to bring to bear on a problem
- Students learn a new skill or heuristic
- Students develop metacognition related to problem solving: ability to abstract heuristic or konw when to apply it
- Students modify their beliefs to allow better problem solving
- Are the geoscience and quantitative skills integrated in a way that makes sense and supports learning?
Approaches range from tight integration to using geoscience data to teach the quantitative skill.
- Does the methodology support learning?
- Motivate and engage
- Build on what they know, address their beliefs
- Multiple representations
- Reflection, discussion, synthesis
- Iteration
- Opportunities for students/faculty to assess learning and confirm on right track
- Appropriate use of technology
- Are the materials complete and helpful to students?
- Goals
- Contextual setting/motivation
- Questions/activity instructions
- Supporting materials - how to instructions, background/resources
- How well has the activity worked when used?