Teaching Deeper Thinking through Controversy: A Case Study from a Graduate Ore Deposits Course
Elizabeth Holley, Colorado School of Mines
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How do we develop rote learners into independent thinkers who can use geological concepts to solve open-ended problems in Earth Science? The pedagogical goal of this graduate ore deposits course was to stimulate student engagement and deeper thinking by focusing the entire course on a current scientific controversy. The course has been delivered three times using the same basic format, centered on the controversial origin of gold in Nevada's ore deposits. The course commences with three weeks of introductory lecture on the existing genetic models. Students develop a reading list as a class and lead seminar discussions in teams. The class takes a nine-day field trip to Nevada to examine the diverse geological signatures of the ore deposits. Finally, students integrate their own observations into genetic models for the gold's origin. The effectiveness of this approach was measured by comparing student evaluations with those from a traditionally formatted graduate course on ore deposits. In quantitative evaluations from two years, the average student rating for total effectiveness of the course was 99%, compared to 90% for the traditional course. Qualitatively, the levels of student engagement and scientific discourse were much higher, and comments included "Really one of the best courses I've taken here. I felt like the teaching style was different but effective. At the graduate level this is the way courses should be taught. It was less about knowing this or that and more about being an effective scientist;" and "This was honestly one of my favorite classes of the semester. While I certainly find other classes and topics intriguing, this was one of the first times that I have ever been genuinely excited, you might even say giddy, about learning the material. The course helped develop my critical thinking skills and made me finally feel like a graduate student."
A case study in GIS and Geodesign: the College campus as a training ground for sustainability modeling, education and community engagement
Christine Smith Siddoway, Colorado College
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Geodesign, an emerging realm in academic Geographic Information Systems (GIS)-based, offers a framework for multiple place-based perspectives that are integral to sustainability across the curriculum. Our immersive undergraduate course provides training in GIS software and applies skills to in-depth study of the College campus, leading to collaborative design involving multiple community stakeholders. Over four weeks, students learn Esri ArcGIS™ basics, create and use on-line collection apps to acquire data, then develop 3D landscape designs using CityEngine™ software. Using these GIS tools to manage a spectrum of place-based information, students compare existing educational and facilities infrastructure against desired sustainability outcomes. At Colorado College, students identified four sectors of the campus as targets for sustainable designs addressing energy and/or water efficiency, climate-appropriate vegetation, or education about the College's Place within and impact upon the Rocky Mountain region. Working as teams, students used CityEngine modeling software and iterative methods to create evocative 3D digital models that provided a basis for dialog and exchange that is at the heart of Geodesign. In formulating the models initially, students acted as stakeholders representing multiple standpoints from their own disciplinary specializations (academic majors). Eventually, they assumed the role of facilitators in participatory workshops involving campus members, facilities management, administration and local nonprofits. Four powerful geodesign concepts emerged: a) a transparent (visible) renewable energy grid that opens up a view corridor to the mountains, b) experiential- and activity-based education about Place, c) realization of a "campus Center" that exemplifies the aims of liberal learning and is in harmony with 21st century water and climate constraints, and d) wetlands restoration and education of the alpine stream that borders the campus. Based on this case study, Geodesign holds great potential for campus sustainability education and infrastructure transformation, insofar as it equips students to initiate dialog and enact change.
Thinking Big: A School-Wide Course Transformation at the University of Hawai'i's School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST)
Barbara Bruno, University of Hawaii at Manoa
sarah bean sherman, University of British Columbia
Sara Harris, University of British Columbia
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We aim to fundamentally transform undergraduate geoscience instruction at the University of Hawai'i, Mānoa (UHM) School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST) based on the Science Education Initiative (SEI). The SEI model involves redesigning courses based on learner-centered approaches that have been shown to produce significant learning gains. Twenty-eight faculty across the ocean, earth and atmospheric sciences have signed up to date. We hope to begin this experiment in the 2015-2016 school year, pending a successful funding decision on an NSF Improving Undergraduate Science Education (IUSE) Geopaths proposal. This project is not only evidence-based, but evidence-generating. At SOEST, we have a rare opportunity to generate a solid picture of the state of teaching and student learning before any transformation takes place, which will contribute to the body of literature on the efficacy of course transformation. Results from specific course transformations will contribute to the literature on effective learning within SOEST sub-disciplines, such as geology and oceanography. Educational researchers will guide faculty through course design and evaluation. Their role is to share a range of proven instructional and assessment strategies, and to train faculty in their use. A key premise is that it is the geoscience faculty who are responsible for designing, implementing and evaluating an educational research experiment of their own choosing. The instructors are the experimenters, not the subjects of an SEI-led experiment.
Supporting Interdisciplinary Teaching about the Earth for a Sustainable Future with the InTeGrate Website
Kristin O'Connell, Carleton College
Monica Bruckner, Carleton College
Dave Gosselin, University of Nebraska at Lincoln
Cathy Manduca, Carleton College
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One of the main project goals of InTeGrate, Interdisciplinary Teaching about Earth for a Sustainable Future, is to greatly increase the number of undergraduate students that are ready to creatively, effectively, and ethically address today's grand, Earth-related, societal issues. Geoscientists are particularly well equipped to explore and explain Earth systems, but aren't always ready to incorporate the societal impacts and challenges relating to these topics. Other disciplines can better approach the engineering, political, ethical, and social aspects of these challenges. To that end, partnerships across these disciplinary silos lead to deeper, more nuanced, and more rigorous discussions- critical to finding real and just solutions to these grand societal issues. The InTeGrate website aims to help bridge disciplinary divides by providing teaching strategies and activities, course descriptions, as well as rigorously developed teaching authored by interdisciplinary teams. The website reflects the InTeGrate community, including perspectives from faculty, program chairs, and employers. It continues to evolve as the community and conversation grows. View the Build Interdisciplinary Connections portion of the InTeGrate website to learn more.