Transforming Attitudes and Killing Interest in Introductory Geology Classes for Majors

Jennifer Stempien and David McConnell
Dilemma: Students enter Physical Geology with great interest in geology regardless of declared major or academic rank. Approximately 70% of students (n=306) declared a high level of interest in multiple aspects of geosciences. However, at the end of the semester, less than 30% of the same population recorded a high interest in geology (regardless of declared major, academic rank). These are large classes (n=160) taught in a relatively traditional lecture format with incorporation of videos and clicker technology. Instructors are fulltime, tenured faculty with a minimum of 5 years experience teaching the course and consistently receive strong faculty teaching evaluations (B+/A- on an A to F scale). Average student performance in class is relatively high (B-) and shows no indication of a lack of ability using traditional class assessments (multiple choice exams). Some students take a complementary lab, some do not.

How can the class be modified to sustain the initial interest of students?


Matt Nyman, Megan Jones, Kaatje Kraft, and Jeff Johnston

  • Getting more information about initial student interests, are these interests being addressed?
  • Check the use of immediacy behaviors by the instructor.
  • Is there room for improvement on how the clickers are being used?
  • Formative assessment during the semester, particularly linked to the initial assessment about the student's interests. What would the students like to see more of, based on their interests?
  • Give students having more control over content of the course.
  • Include students in developing assessment instruments.

Transforming Attitudes and Killing Interest in Introductory Geology Classes for Majors  

How enthusiastic are the instructors about the material? Are they conveying their own curiosity in the subject matter or do they treat teching the intro class as a chore?


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