Teach the Earth > Web-Based Resources > Educational Design > Fostering Critical Thinking > An Example Course

An Example

Introduction to Geophysical Exploration ( This site may be offline. ) is a traditional class for upper-level undergraduate students developed by Tom Boyd at the Colorado School of Mines that is augmented with network technology. The explicit goal of the course is to lead students to understand how geophysicists work - the language, skills, and techniques they employ in solving real problems.

The design of the course is intended to build knowledge as students accumulate specific information. Students take on the role of contractors, working in teams for a specific client. Their goal is to find abandoned mining tunnels below a site intended for housing development. Students develop survey design parameters, choosing from a variety of geophysical techniques to acquire data. An important element of the course design is that students are responsible to the client for the costs of their site assessment, so they need to do a basic cost-benefit analysis of the different techniques based on their own criteria.

Visit the course web-site with the following questions in mind:

  1. How well does this course meet the goals of Inquiry-based learning?
  2. In what ways does the course promote students critical thinking skills?
  3. What are the advantages to having a web-based, rather than a field-based or classroom-based course? What are the disadvantages?
  4. How would you incorporate a resource like this into your own teaching?
  5. What can you learn from this example about improving the design of your own web resources to meet critical thinking/learning goals?

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Workshop participants contributed questions and comments when they were led through this activity.
  • Students have control over the learning path because they have interactive tools.
  • The heavier emphasis on reading rather than lecture more closely mimics real-life situations.
  • The Role Playing aspect of this exercise is very important.
  • Field experience and the opportunity for verification are important complements to the exercise.
  • Students will undoubtedly remember the survey design experience, but does this mean that they will understand and remember the conceptual physics involved when this was mostly covered in lecture?
  • How can you build in reflection time into a web-based activity?
  • How should the instructor manage keeping the students on-track?