Increasing Student Engagement in Lectures and Labs

Monday 11:30am-1:30pm UMC Aspen Rooms
Poster Session

Session Chairs

LeeAnn Srogi, West Chester University of Pennsylvania
Christopher Berg, Orange Coast College
Small-Group Active-Learning Modules and their Impacts on Student Attitudes and Achievement in a Large Introductory Geology Course
Christopher Berg, Orange Coast College

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It is critically important to find effective ways to promote scientific literacy within introductory geoscience classrooms, as a working knowledge of geologic principles provides the background necessary to understand issues that have long-term and global-scale social, economic, and political consequences. Climate change, management of nonrenewable resources, risks related to natural hazard processes—these are obvious concerns, yet many incoming college students lack the experience needed to critically assess and discuss these issues. To improve students' level of scientific literacy, increase student engagement, and raise rates of student achievement of course learning objectives, a series of self-contained learning activities were incorporated into the structure of an introductory physical geology lecture course taught by the author. This presentation reports on the progress of development and implementation of these activities and their impacts on student learning. All module activities are completed outside the scheduled lecture meeting periods and generally last 60-90 minutes. Signup lists cap session sizes; sessions are generally limited to 16 students or fewer. Each activity provides students with opportunities to investigate course topics via discovery-based learning using advanced tools and approaches (e.g. SEM analysis of mineral properties), models, and small-group collaborative activities; activities were designed to scaffold with material discussed in lecture periods. The effect of each module on student attitudes and student learning outcomes is measured by administering activity pre- and post-tests and a short post-activity survey; course grades, performance on course pre- and post-tests, and responses to an end-of-course survey instrument are used to track the overall effectiveness of the approach across the semester. Modifications have been made to individual module activities and to their place within the course (e.g. required or voluntary participation) based on logistical needs and student feedback.
Inquiry- based laboratory exercises and student learning
Sarah Schliemann, Metropolitan State College of Denver

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Inquiry- based laboratory activities are a growing trend in science classrooms, especially in K-12 education. In contrast to traditional laboratory exercises in which the lab's method is clearly laid out for the students, inquiry- based laboratory activities require the students to determine the method and the data to be collected. These inquiry labs more closely mimic the process a scientist employs in his or her work. Other researchers have demonstrated that inquiry labs promote a better understanding of the nature of science and the scientific process. In this study, I was interested to see whether inquiry labs impact students' mastery of course material and/ or their attitudes about science and math. This investigation was conducted in an introductory science class primarily attended by pre-service elementary teachers. In the spring of 2014, I administered a pre and post-test to students in two sections of this course (44 students, in total). These students carried out labs in the class using a traditional format with explicit directions. In the fall of 2014, I administered the same survey to a new group of students in two sections of the course (43 students, in total). These students carried out the same labs, but used an inquiry-based approach. The data in this investigation was analyzed using a two sample t-test using SAS statistical software. I found that there was not a significant difference between the two groups in their mastery of course material or their attitudes about science and math. Although this study found that inquiry-based laboratory activities didn't improve students' mastery of course material or their attitudes about science and math, inquiry labs may still be valuable tools to teach students about the nature of science and science inquiry, although this study did not explicitly investigate these outcomes.
Increasing lecture size to create time for small-group laboratory-style activities in introductory geology at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo
Scott Johnston, California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo

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Introductory geology serves as a general education requirement for a wide variety of non-science majors at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, and represents an excellent opportunity to teach fundamental science learning objectives including observation, description and hypothesis testing through the familiar lens of our natural surroundings. However, the existing format for introductory geology classes at Cal Poly, consisting of multiple 60–70 student sections in a traditional lecture setting for four hours per week, precluded significant student–teacher interaction, and made it impossible for students to get the hands-on experience that is an essential component of introductory geology classes. To increase the component of experiential learning in this class, we reformatted the class by combining the multiple sections into a supersized 120–180 student lecture that meets for only three hours per week; time saved through section combination and the reduction of traditional lecture hours was used to create 4–6 one-hour activity sections when students receive their fourth hour of contact time in a laboratory classroom. These activity sections serve as mini-labs in which students gain experience making descriptive observations, interpret data, and working through tutorials that accompany hand samples, maps, and graphs, while simultaneously providing an important opportunity for one-on-one interaction between students and professors. We feel that the benefits of the increased experiential learning in the activity sections have outweighed the increased student-teacher ratio in the supersized lecture, and at least anecdotally, student evaluations regarding the new class have been positive, and achievement of specific class learning objectives has improved on exams. In the future, we hope to continue to increase the ratio of time occupied by problem solving activities in introductory geology at Cal Poly through introduction of small-group breakout sessions for use during the supersized lecture periods.
Reflections on Teaching a Large-Lecture, Introductory Earth Science Course
Larry Braile, Purdue University-Main Campus

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I have taught a large lecture (150-400 students), introductory Earth science course (Planet Earth; 3 credits) nearly every semester for over 20 years. The freshman-level course does not have a laboratory component and is taken primarily by non-science majors who require science credits for their degree requirements. More recently I have taught the same course in a distance learning/online format, as well as a 1-credit online lab course as an optional companion course to the Planet Earth lecture or online course. The courses are an opportunity to engage a large number of students who, as members of the public and future leaders, will be responsible for important decisions and policymaking related to societal issues that are fundamentally Earth science – including energy, natural resources, protecting the environment, and natural hazards. Using these and other topics, we can illustrate that the Earth sciences are interesting and an important part of their daily lives. There is some anecdotal evidence that the relevance of these subjects provides increased motivation. Also, public understanding, knowledge and appreciation of these subjects, and other areas of the Earth sciences, are important to the world and to the future of the Earth sciences. Finally, the course material can also demonstrate that there are excellent career opportunities in the Earth sciences that may be of interest to some of the students in the course. I have attempted, certainly with only partial success, to focus on developing understanding, problem solving, and higher-order thinking related to fundamental Earth science concepts rather than memorization. Challenges that are very apparent, and that seem to have increased in recent years, include lack of student preparedness in quantitative and technical areas, and too many students who "just want the answer"; likely a result of recent emphasis of high-stakes testing.
The Teacher-Scholar-Citizen Model from Principle to Practice
LeeAnn Srogi, West Chester University of Pennsylvania
Martin Helmke, West Chester University of Pennsylvania
Cynthia Hall, West Chester University of Pennsylvania
Tim Lutz, West Chester University of Pennsylvania

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Teacher-Scholar (TS) models articulate how the fundamental roles of faculty in higher educational institutions are defined, valued, and balanced. Here we propose a Teacher-Scholar-Citizen (TSC) model as a better fit for the geosciences as currently practiced at many universities. This poster will review and provide examples of TS and TSC models and explore several facets of implementing a TSC model at the individual, department, and institutional levels. Writing a TSC model helps department faculty discuss common goals and set standards for achievement; TSC models also can be contentious and exclusive rather than inclusive. There are many ways to engage students in education for their roles as citizens, including service-learning. We will share examples of how these experiences can be assessed and embedded within program student learning outcomes. TSC models can be a good way to demonstrate alignment of a department with the mission and standards of a university and of professional societies. A TSC model can be used to help administrators and faculty on tenure-promotion committees understand the value of non-traditional activities. We also will present our experience with the many challenges that arise when implementing a TSC model. We hope to encourage group discussion at the poster and informally beyond the poster, so that participants can discuss issues that most concern them, share strategies for success, and/or consider roles that TSC models could play in the geoscience community as a whole.
Exploring the many ways that instructors use TMYN
Jennifer Wenner, University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh
Eric Baer, Highline Community College

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We explore the many ways that The Math You Need, When You Need It (TMYN) is used both formally and informally to support quantitative skills use and development in the geosciences. TMYN was originally designed as a student resource to be used in close connection to introductory geoscience courses. Evaluation of the modules has focused on collecting data associated with its use by faculty trained at several workshops to implement the resource in conjunction with their introductory geoscience course. Faculty who went through the workshops incorporate it in their classes in flexible ways - as an out of class resource, pre-lab homework, optional homework, or as a review for students who struggle with basic mathematics. However, we have discovered that both trained and untrained instructors are using TMYN in innovative ways that extend beyond their original design. Several faculty who attended the workshop subsequently trained others in their departments and adapted TMYN so that the modules could be used throughout the department. UW Colleges (Wisconsin's state system of community colleges) are using TMYN and its evaluation software system-wide to collect data on student quantitative preparation and skill acquisition. The most recent edition of the AGI/NAGT Physical Geology manual includes QR codes and links directly to appropriate pages in TMYN as a way to scaffold student support. TMYN resources are also accessed by 5,000-10,000 people per week, most of whom are searching for mathematical help on Google or other search engines. As the TMYN project draws to a close, we explore ways to continue and extend the effective use of the resource post-NSF funding.
Student Learning Outcomes and Experiences Associated with Student-Centered Redesign of a General Education Geology Course
Kelsey Bitting, Elon University
Alison Olcott Marshall, University of Kansas Main Campus

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The University of Kansas has embarked upon an ambitious agenda for transforming introductory level courses with an emphasis on active learning in STEM disciplines. We present results and analysis of a redesigned general education geology course, "DNA to Dinosaurs: Prehistoric Life." We explore the redesign process as undertaken collaboratively by a faculty member and a teaching postdoctoral fellow for course redesign, and compare and contrast the design and teaching methods pre- (spring 2013) and post-redesign (fall 2014), including RTOP scores for the active version. We then present outcomes of the redesign by analyzing grade distributions for the class in both semesters, writing products produced by students according to rubrics designed to characterize written communication and critical thinking outcomes, and student comments about the course in each semester. Finally, we describe the implementation of a course-based undergraduate research project and the associated public student showcase event, and explore the university-wide impacts of this project and event on the faculty-level conversation about course redesign, assessment, and student learning. Ultimately, our outcomes clearly and firmly support decades of research asserting that active, student-centered courses and authentic learning opportunities inspired by real-world problems can provoke learning and engagement far beyond those of a traditional lecture-based course.
Preparing students for collaborative leadership in sustainability: Applications of using business-based professional assessments to develop interdisciplinary and service learning teams
Dave Gosselin, University of Nebraska at Lincoln
Ronald J. Bonnstetter, Target Training International

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Higher education is being confronted with a paradigm shift that is forcing it to collectively reexamine their ability to develop graduates who have relevant professional competencies. Collaboration and team work are competencies that are sought after by employers. The creation of effective collaboration is critical to developing the interdisciplinary linkages that are necessary to confront the many societal challenges posed by human activities and prepare today's students to meet future intellectual and workforce demands. To address the challenge of developing collaboration skills, the Environmental Studies (ES) program at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) used backward curriculum design, multiple modalities of experiential learning and a reflective action research approach to develop collaboration and teamwork skills in undergraduate students. The ES program partnered with Target Training International Ltd. (TTI) to help student's create interdisciplinary teams. Through TTI's TriMetrix Assessment, the UNL-ES program is taking a page from the business world and partnering with it to help students understand themselves, adapt their behaviors to more effectively work in a team, and be introduced to the concept of assessments and their use in the professional world. These assessments played a positive role in the dynamics of each group, some more than others. The analyses of these data informed us about how to improve the use of the assessment output in class. Specifically, we can use these data as specific examples in debriefing future classes. We have also identified certain mixtures of behavioral styles and motivational drivers that may be problematic to group work. Many students have experienced team projects. However, most students have not explicitly had to learn about the factors that go into effective collaboration or they have never been explicitly explained to them. This is particularly the case with regards to processes of developing shared responsibility.
Investigating A Paired Teaching Model for Transfer of Evidence-Based Teaching Practices
Tara Holland, University of British Columbia

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The term "co-teaching" has many meanings and is implemented in higher education in numerous ways, each of which may be characterized by differing levels of shared involvement in the class by the instructors. The scale of shared involvement can range from "serial teaching", where instructors independently teach a section of course material, to "paired teaching", where instructors share the teaching of each class. In this research, the focus is on paired teaching, defined as a model of co-teaching in which the teaching team consists of two or more instructors sharing the planning, delivery, and assessment of instruction, as well as the physical space in the classroom. Paired teaching has been used with success in teacher education and social work education settings, where an explicit benefit is modeling and developing collaborative skills for learners. There is limited literature on co-teaching in geoscience education, but a paired teaching model can potentially be used as a means to disseminate effective, evidence-based teaching practices between faculty members. Multiple courses in the Earth, Ocean, & Atmospheric Sciences department at the University of British Columbia have been "transformed" through the Carl Wieman Science Education Initiative (CWSEI) to incorporate best practices in instruction strategies; however, it is unclear to what degree these practices are transferred to instructors who were not a part of the course transformation team. We are investigating the potential of a paired teaching model (where an instructor who actively uses evidence-based practices is paired with either a new instructor, or one who has had limited exposure to such teaching practices) to achieve this dissemination. Preliminary findings reported here are based on semi-structured, in-depth interviews conducted before and after a semester-long paired teaching experience, with nine instructors from three paired teaching teams. Recommendations for how to develop a successful paired teaching team are presented.