Plate Tectonics writing assignment suitable for Calibrated Peer Review
This activity was selected for the On the Cutting Edge Reviewed Teaching Collection
This activity has received positive reviews in a peer review process involving five review categories. The five categories included in the 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: Aug 22, 2006
This material was originally created for Starting Point:Introductory Geology
and is replicated here as part of the SERC Pedagogic Service.
1) develop an understanding of how convergent and divergent plate boundaries differ
2) learn to use data to make a scientific argument
Context for Use
This is a writing assignment that the student can do in a computer lab or own her/his own computer. It is targeted at an introductory geology or oceanography course.
Equipment required for EarthEd Online:
*Macintosh OSX and Classic or PC with Win/98/2000/XP.
This assignment was created using the EarthEd Online system, but all materials are available for entry into the UCLA Calibrated Peer Review system. UCLA calibrated peer review home page ( This site may be offline. )
Information about other data browsers, EarthEd Online, and UCSB Oceanography can be found at: UCSB Oceanography home page
Description and Teaching Materials
Detailed examples that use data in the Our Dynamic Planet CD to investigate plate tectonics problems. (Acrobat (PDF) 64.4MB May12 05)
Assignment description-student handout (Microsoft Word 27kB May12 05)
Anatomy of a science paper-student handout (Microsoft Word 178kB May12 05)
Short summary of data for studying plate tectonics; student handout (Microsoft Word 152kB May12 05)
How to avoid the appearance of cheating-student handout (Microsoft Word 27kB May12 05)
The following link will download a zip file containing the 3 calibration papers used in this writing assignment. The instructor will have to create the scores for each paper, unless the EarthEd Online writing system is used. Three calibration papers in web page format - zip file (Microsoft Word 1.6MB May12 05)
I use EarthEdOnline to deliver this assignment. The following document describes EarthEd Online and results with the CPR assignment delivered to a general education oceanography class during the winter quarter of 2005.
Using EarthEd Online to deliver a CPR assignment (Acrobat (PDF) 4.9MB Apr28 05)
Teaching Notes and Tips
- lecture and video explaining the theory of plate tectonics
- reading about the theory of plate tectonics from the class text
- reading "Anatomy of a Science Paper" (see resources)
- a homework assignment covering boundary types
- in-class "question of the day" activity that addresses plate boundary types
- a 2 hr lab session where students investigate the plate boundaries, using the "Our Dynamic Planet" CD and discuss the components of the writing assignments
- in-class discussions of science writing and use of evidenced in argumentation
–If this is the first assignment where students are asked to used data, the above scaffolding activities help get the support they need to do their best.
References and Resources
The Our Dynamic Planet CDROM provides students with a rich collection of data relevant to the study of plate tectonics. It includes a 30 minute animated video outlining the theory, a geography game to help students recognize the names of continents and oceans on a world map, a profile game to help students visualize topographic profiles, and the MAP data, which includes elevation, age, earthquake, volcano, and heat flow data that can be displayed and captured to jpeg images that students can include in their writing assignments.
How to get the Our Dynamic Planet CDROM (Acrobat (PDF) 300kB Sep20 05)