Teaching Paleontology

Paleontology has played a central role in deciphering the history of the Earth, including the rates and dates of tectonic activity, evolution, climate change, and large impact events. Paleontology uses both qualitative and quantitative methods, and can be incorporated throughout the geoscience curriculum. This site provides resources for designing or augmenting an undergraduate paleontology course with an eye for new pedagogic methods, high-quality teaching activities, and the current research into what works in the classroom.

Course Design & Pedagogy | Resource Collections | Special Topics | Workshops & Events | Get Involved

Designing an Effective Paleontology Course

1. Set goals

Explore example learning goals for Paleontology from your colleagues. Learn more about setting effective course goals in the Course Design Tutorial. You can also explore course goals from others' Paleontology courses using the syllabi available in the course collection.

2. Consider assessment options

Aligning your assessment strategies with the goals of your course is an essential part of the design process. You can learn more about assessment in the section about Assessing Student Learning in the Course Design tutorial and through our module on Observing and Assessing Student Learning.

3. Select pedagogies and specific teaching activities

The pedagogic techniques highlighted below can provide inspiration as you consider various approaches that will help your students achieve your course goals. The resource collections are organized to provide a rich set of materials to draw from in constructing the specific set of learning experiences you want for your students. Finally, explore the more in-depth information and ideas available in special topics.

Selected Pedagogical Approaches

Paleontology courses help students build a variety of qualitative and quantitative skills and critical thinking abilities. In addition to the page linked below, a selection of pedagogies that lend themselves to skill development can be found in the Teaching Methods collection.

  • Paleontology in the Field: A number of workshop presenters and participants have shared their expertise in teaching using field work. Here, you can benefit from their experiences by exploring their presentations and teaching activities.

Resource Collections

Once you've identified the core learning goals for your course, you can use them to focus your search for relevant materials in our resource collections. The materials listed below reflect the contributions of faculty members from across the country.

  • Course descriptions, including course learning goals, syllabi, and supporting information.
  • Course design approaches, from participants of the 2009 workshop on Teaching Paleontology, compiles thoughts on the advantages and disadvantages of four different approaches, along with suggestions for successful implementation. You can also view their survey results, which provide a snapshot of the demographics on paleontology courses, information on student misconceptions, topics that students find particularly difficult, and recent advances that should be incorporated into paleontology courses.
  • Teaching activities, including classroom activities, lab exercises, problem sets, and more.
  • Museum activity ideas: Participants from the 2009 workshop brainstormed ideas for utilizing museums to teach paleontology.
  • Additional resources, including websites and other resources recommended by faculty who teach paleontology.

Special Topics

Workshops and Events

Get Involved

  • Contribute Materials: We encourage faculty to contribute course descriptions, teaching activities, and other materials to continue to build our collections.
  • Join our email list. Share insights, ask questions, or network with other faculty. The link above will also provide access for list members to the email list archives and allow you to unsubscribe.

      Next Page »