Teach the Earth > Introductory Courses > Activities > Book Review of a Popular Science Book

Book Review of a Popular Science Book

Heather Macdonald
College of William and Mary
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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 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 http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/review.html.

This page first made public: Jul 11, 2008


Students select a popular science book to read and then write a book review and give a short oral book review to their classmates.

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This assignment has been used in an undergraduate Historical Geology course.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Students have some knowledge of or interest in the topic of the book.

How the activity is situated in the course

This is a stand-alone assignment.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

The content goal is for the student to delve more deeply into a geoscience topic of interest to them.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

The student gives a critical review of the book.

Other skills goals for this activity

This assignment involves finding published book reviews, writing a short paper, and giving a short oral presentation.

Description of the activity/assignment

Each student selects a popular science book on a geoscience topic of interest to them, finds two book reviews of that book, and writes a book review that includes some description of the book as well as some commentary and review. Each student also gives a short (three-four minute) oral presentation of their review to their classmates (either stand-alone or with one Powerpoint slide).

Determining whether students have met the goals

A rubric would be great, but I evaluated the reviews based on the content of the review, the level of review and commentary, and the degree to which the review was interesting and engaging.

More information about assessment tools and techniques.

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Supporting references/URLs

This assignment is based on a book review assignment given by Bev Sher in her freshman seminar on Emerging Diseases (at the College of William and Mary) and by Suzanne O'Connell 's description of her assignment having students read, review, and find published reviews of popular science books in her oceanography course (O'Connell, S.B., 1997, Communicating science in general education: Science courses with popular science books: Journal of Geoscience Education, v. 45, p. 354-358.)