Earthquake Case Study

Kaatje Kraft
Mesa Community College
Author Profile

  1. This activity was selected for the On the Cutting Edge Exemplary Teaching Collection

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    • Scientific Accuracy
    • Alignment of Learning Goals, Activities, and Assessments
    • Pedagogic Effectiveness
    • Robustness (usability and dependability of all components)
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  2. This activity has benefited from input from faculty educators beyond the author through a review and suggestion process. This review took place as a part of a faculty professional development workshop where groups of faculty reviewed each others' activities and offered feedback and ideas for improvements. To learn more about the process On the Cutting Edge uses for activity review, see

This page first made public: May 16, 2008


This activity is a multiple case study analysis of different earthquakes that leads to student interpretation of claims, evidence and prediction/recommendations.

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Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Students have a basic understanding of what occurs during an earthquake, common hazards, varying earthquake scales.

How the activity is situated in the course

This is the culminating portion of my earthquake "unit" in my course. It is the last in a sequence of activities (the first of which starts with the Mercalli Scale Activity).


Content/concepts goals for this activity

By the end of this activity, students will be able to identify the cause of an earthquake and the damage that occurred. They will also be able to make predictions about future events in a given region based on evidence from the earthquake itself. In addition, students will make connections between the use of observations as data for geoscientists in the process of science.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Students will analyze data, synthesize ideas, and make predictions and recommendations about future events. Students will use their metacognitive skills to connect the course content to the metacurriculum of the process of science and their own thinking process.

Other skills goals for this activity

  • Reading evaluation
  • Oral communication
  • Written communication
  • Data Analysis
  • Collaborative skills
  • Group presentations
  • Time management
  • Self evaluation of performance and comprehension

Description of the activity/assignment

Students work in a jigsaw format, they start in an expert group analyzing one particular aspect of the earthquake that occurred (e.g., tsunami, geologic maps, damage assessment). After analyzing the data/information provided, students get into their new groups, which are a "consulting team" to make recommendations to key governmental officials about the earthquake they studied and implications for future development. These are presented in a poster session style event, which then leads to individual papers that are written about the same topic, which are peer reviewed and revised. Students are asked to reflect on their strengths and weaknesses in the process and to consider changes for future opportunities, as well as connect the curriculum to the overall process of science.

Determining whether students have met the goals

Students are assessed in the following ways:
  • Group presentation & comprehension
  • Notebook evaluation of activity completion and detailed reflections
  • Written assignment
  • Quiz questions

More information about assessment tools and techniques.

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Supporting references/URLs

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