Observing, describing and measuring landscape attributes

Leonard Sklar
,
San Francisco State University
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Summary

Students work in groups, examining three different representations of earth surface topography: a raised relief map, a topographic map, and stereo pairs of aerial photographs.

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Context

Audience

upper division undergraduate course for geology majors

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

How the activity is situated in the course

First lab of the semester, stand alone exercise

Goals

Content/concepts goals for this activity

  • give students an opportunity to pose some of the basic questions about how and why landforms are created

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

  • challenge students to develop a hypothesis for how they might explain one of the landscape patterns they observe.

Other skills goals for this activity

  • develop students' "eye" for seeing patterns in the landscap
  • develop students' ability to describe clearly what they see

Description of the activity/assignment

Students work in groups, examining three different representations of earth surface topography: a raised relief map, a topographic map, and stereo pairs of aerial photographs. The class comes together three times during the lab to report on each group's progress and results.

This lab is intended to both clarify and build on students' previous ways of seeing the landscape, and also give them a chance to view the landscape with fresh eyes. One important element of this exercise is to practice separating observation from interpretation. Ideally, observations are objective facts, things other people would see if they followed the same procedure as you did. Interpretations are all the names, explanations and stories we develop as we attempt to make sense of our observations.

Designed for a geomorphology course
Has minimal/no quantitative component
Addresses student fear of quantitative aspect and/or inadequate quantitative skills
Addresses student misconceptions

Determining whether students have met the goals

More information about assessment tools and techniques.

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