A project-based geology curriculum at Lake Superior State University: an overview with examples

Thursday 3:15pm REC Center Large Ice Overlook Room
Oral Presentation Part of Course-Based Research Projects


Paul Kelso, Lake Superior State University
Lewis Brown, Lake Superior State University
We at Lake Superior State University designed an innovative undergraduate geology curriculum that is based on constructivist educational principles and emphasizes engagement of students in real-life projects. Students participate in active hands-on exercises that focus on acquisition of problem solving skills. Our curriculum encompasses a series of progressively more complex project-centered courses the focus of which is on key core concepts that we identified through a national survey of geoscience faculty. Upper division courses require integration of skill sets and sub-disciplinary content that are acquired and developed sequentially throughout the four planned years of the curriculum.

Our Geophysical Systems and Tectonics Systems courses demonstrate the pedagogy and concept acquisition methodology that we advocate. Through these courses students learn and apply relevant concepts from multiple sub-disciplines while addressing real world geoscience problems. Two project examples are discussed. The first includes determination of the location, size, shape and depth of an old, abandoned landfill, located on tribal land, which is now eroding into a local creek. The students were involved in all parts of the project including designing and conducting the geophysical surveys, processing and interpreting the data and presenting the results to their peers and to tribal scientists. Students learn geophysics principles while addressing questions of concern to the community. The second example includes activities centered on a Tectonics Systems spring break field trip from Michigan to the southern Appalachian Mountains. Pre-trip activities include preparatory oral presentations and written summaries on different aspects of the Appalachian orogeny and associated processes. Students then integrate these studies plus their field notes and observations to produce a geologic field trip guide. This project requires students to integrate the stratigraphy, structure, and petrology with field observations and knowledge of tectonic processes to develop and communicate their understanding of a complex geologic system.

Presentation Media

A Project-based geology curriculum at Lake Superior State University (PowerPoint 2007 (.pptx) 32MB Jul16 15)