End of course critter exam

Rene Shroat-Lewis, University of Arkanasas Little Rock
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In order to pass the paleobiology class, students must pass a critter test, which contains 25 different fossils. Students are asked to identify the fossils in as detailed a manner as possible.

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This critter exam is designed for an upper-level undergraduate paleobiology course taken most often by geology majors and biology majors, or those with an interest in paleontology.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Students must have passed Historical Geology and/or Introductory Biology in order to register for this course.

Students will have been taught about the major groups of organisms and will have completed labs on these groups (i.e. Phylum Echinodermata). They will have explored the various orders, and made notes on distinguishing features along with detailed drawings.

How the activity is situated in the course

The students must pass this exam with at least a 70% in order to earn better than a "C" in this course.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

This activity is set up to test identification skills of the major invertebrate fossil groups. This prepares them for quick identification of major fossil groups in the field.

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

This activity allows for assessment of identification skills the student has acquired during the course.

Other skills goals for this activity

Description and Teaching Materials

Twenty-five fossils from the major invertebrate phyla are numbered 1-25 and placed on different tables around the room. Students have an answer sheet in which to write their most exact level of identification. Each fossil is worth a maximum grade of 4 points. As an example, if I place a brittle sea star out for identification, students will receive the full 4-points if they can tell me that it belongs to either order Ophiurida or Euryalida. Students receive 2-points (50%) if they can tell me that it belongs to the phylum Echinodermata. Students receive 1-point (25%) if they can only give the common name (brittle sea star).

In order to pass this exam, students must earn an overall grade of 70%. Students can retake this exam as many times as necessary to pass, but only once per day. The exam fossils are changed after each time it is given so that students don't just memorize the 25 fossils. Once students obtain a passing grade on the exercise, the score is recorded and the activity is complete.

Students are informed in the syllabus that they cannot earn higher than a "C" in the course if they do not pass the exam.

Teaching Notes and Tips


A passing grade of 70% is required.

References and Resources