Teach the Earth > Paleontology > Teaching Activities > Brachiopod exercise for FossilPlot

Brachiopod exercise for FossilPlot

Leif Tapanila
Idaho State University
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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: Jun 8, 2009


Uses FossilPlot to graph Phanerozoic histories of Articulata, introduce concepts on diversity and mass extinctions, and basic biostratigraphy.

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upper division undergraduate and graduate level course in paleontology

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

The classic (old Linnean!) Orders of the Articulata. The concepts of diversity, origination and extinction.

How the activity is situated in the course

One part of a lab in a sequence of exercises.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

stratigraphic ranges of brachiopods; basic measures of diversity and association with extinction; the concurrent range zone and its precision.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

how to read a graph; basic algebra;

Other skills goals for this activity

navigating a spreadsheet or website

Description of the activity/assignment

Students are taught how to use FossilPlot software in the lab prior to this exercise. Students work individual to work through the short exercise, handing in a copy of the diversity graphs for the brachiopod orders (which will be tested in the following midterm) and a completed worksheet. The exercise reinforces the main functions of FossilPlot and addresses basic concepts on diversity and biostratigraphy. Once the assignments are collected and graded, we discuss the outcomes of the exercise in class.

Determining whether students have met the goals

Answers to the questions on the worksheet are 'right or wrong' based on if the student followed correct procedure in answering the question. The final open question (on biostratigraphy vs radiometric dating) is used as a gateway question to be expanded in the following lab.

More information about assessment tools and techniques.

Download teaching materials and tips

Other Materials

Supporting references/URLs

FossilPlot 1.1 - Primer and software available at this site
FossilPlot 2.0 (more info) - temporary working site under construction.

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