Geophysics of the News

Laurie Brown
University of Massachusetts
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The is a project to present. both orally and written, information on the Plate Tectonics setting of a geographic region in the news. Emphasis is on the geophysical studies/results from the region, but plate boundaries are the setting.

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This is part of a General Geophysics course - an upper level course for undergraduates with a few first-year grad students who have no experience with Geophysics yet.
Designed for a geophysics course

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Students should be familiar with Plate Tectonics, but this may just be from an introductory level class. Little knowledge of geophysics or quantitative skills are needed. It is assumed students have some experience using research facilities on the WEB and in the library.

How the activity is situated in the course

This is the first big assignment in a General Geophysics course (upper level) and follows an opening review of Plate Tectonics.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

Content goals in the project are to increase the student's understanding of a plate boundary situation in one specific area, and to increase their understanding of a number of other locations.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Higher order skills needed for this project are analysis of large quantities of published information on an area, the ability to distill it into a concise and meaningful report, or to start from a general idea of the plate boundary type in a specific area and work down to what geophysical information supports that interpretation.

Other skills goals for this activity

Other skills employed in the this project are research skills in the library, on-line, and in data bases; the preparation of a short written report from large amounts of information; preparation of a Power point presentation; and oral presentation of to the class of the topic

Description of the activity/assignment

Each student draws a location from a hat. Then they have one week to research the area, starting with its general plate tectonics situation and then on to specific geophysical information on the place. The knowledge must then be distilled into a one page written report with reference and a 10 minute presentation (usually PowerPoint) to the class. Oral presentations (done in lab so we have sufficient time) are graded by their peers as well as myself.
Has minimal/no quantitative component

Determining whether students have met the goals

Evaluation is done by me reading their reports, and by evaluations of the oral presentation by the entire class. This evaluation takes into consideration the content of the talk, the presentation itself, and response to questions. I require the students to sign their critiques and to be thoughtful and constructive. I then "sanitize" the evaluations and return a group of comments (no names attached) and an averaged grade to the speaker.

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