Small-Group Active-Learning Modules and their Impacts on Student Attitudes and Achievement in a Large Introductory Geology Course

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


Christopher Berg, Orange Coast College
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.

Presentation Media

Poster Presentation - Berg (2015) (Acrobat (PDF) 2.7MB Jul23 15)