Our Geologic Environment (GSCI 100)
Course Type: Intro Level:Earth Science Intro Level Physical Geology
The lab portion is required and mixes together students from both lecture sections. The labs are taught by myself and other faculty with the help of T.A.'s. The lab constitutes 25% of the entire geology grade.
In your department, do majors and non-majors take separate introductory courses? yes
The two courses do cover similar materials though the course for non-majors includes more information about energy and climate change than the course for majors. The Major's intro course also covers physical geology topics in greater depth and because there are fewer students, it involves at least 1 field trip.
If students take a "non-majors" course, and then decide to become a major, do they have to go back and take an additional introductory course? no
Students in the lab learn (or are re-introduced to) some of the basic tools of the geologist such as math, maps, and models. They also practice observational techniques when studying rocks, minerals, and relative time relationships. Two example laboratory activities are: Rock-Tectonics Synthesis Lab and Spring Break-Weathering Homework.
1) Demonstrate an understanding of the Earth as a system and identify and discuss interactions between the geosphere, hydrosphere, and atmosphere (specifically those that include humans and their environment).
2) Discuss the meaning of "science" and identify how it plays a role in their lives.
3) Extract information from geologic materials (e.g. graphs, rocks, maps, etc.) and use their observations to synthesize reasonable conclusions.
In addition, my lecture style attempts to address learning preferences that would not be tapped in a typical lecture setting.
To help with the science phobic students, I use the power of analogy heavily (think of the rats in Ratatouille being like a glacier going around a nunatak). Compared to other sciences, geology has the great ability to click with visual learners...lab and other active learning techniques help click concepts with the kinesthetic learners.
I want students to walk out of the class and to see geological concepts around them. They have questions about this link on exams; they also have a homework assignment that requires them to go seeking geology in their real life setting. Unlike other sciences, there are clear aspects of geology that are touchable and see-able and the more I can bring that into the classroom, the better students will do with achieving the learning goals.
In the lab, students are assessed through weekly quizzes, 2 lab exams, lab exercises, and prelabs. The lab exercises and the prelabs are graded for completeness not correctness. Students are responsible for correcting their work using a provided key.
References and Notes:
My colleagues and I really like the 2 page spreads and the concentration on images. We also like the notion that it doesn't have a glossary and so students have to go reading and looking when we ask them to define a term for a pre-lab. One of my colleagues also uses concept sketches and this book dovetails very well with concept sketch use.