Classroom-based research projects as an alternative to traditional learning

Thursday 3:00pm REC Center Large Ice Overlook Room
Oral Presentation Part of Course-Based Research Projects


Kevin Spigel, Unity College
Traditional weekly lab assignments are replaced with student-centered, semester-long research projects in advanced courses in the Earth and Environmental Science Program at Unity College. Many of these research projects are conducted under the auspices of service learning for the benefit of the local community including municipal organizations and conservation groups. Examples of past projects include "The Effects of Precipitation on Streamflow and Groundwater Levels", "Landuse Impacts on Runoff and Soil Erosion", "A Hydrogeological Investigation of the Unity Wastewater Lagoon Site", and "A Paleoenvironmental Reconstruction for Lake Winnecook Using Multiple Sediment Proxies". Some projects evolve into continued studies as individual research projects performed outside of the classroom. Student learning outcomes are met through intensive field and laboratory investigations, quantitative analysis and data interpretation, spatial analysis using GIS, and dissemination of results at college research conferences and regional professional society meetings. Successful class research projects require significant pre-semester planning to identify potential community partners and discuss their needs; determine site location, perform preliminary study design, coordinate logistics, and engage with labs regarding sample submission (e.g. some chemical testing, radiocarbon ages, etc.) timelines; and organize the presentation of results. Approximately 50% of class lecture/lab time, arranged in long blocks, is reserved for the introduction of content applicable to the project as well as a review of methodologies and final project planning. Remaining time is reserved specifically for small student working groups to conduct field and lab work, perform data analysis and interpretation, report-out to peer groups, and format the final presentation (poster or slide presentation). Case-based examples highlighting the nature of the field and lab work involved are presented along with effective strategies for successful integration of research into the classroom.

Presentation Media