A Lecture Tutorial on the Mahomet Aquifer in central Illinois

Tuesday 1:30pm-1:50pm Weeks Geo: 140
Teaching Demo


Eileen Herrstrom, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign


The demonstration will define lecture tutorials and present the setting for the activity. Participants will then see essentially the same slides as students do and will complete the same exercise. Finally, the objectives will be reviewed and their success evaluated.


The objectives of this activity are to make lecture more interactive, introduce methods used in lab, and increase lecture attendance. The activity is presented in the context of a lecture on groundwater which begins with definitions of basic terms. Before doing the activity, students see the results of an exercise called "Using GIS to construct water table maps and flow nets", which is available through On the Cutting Edge (https://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/hydrogeo/activities/9937.html). Students will use a similar technique in the activity and later in their laboratory session. The handout comprises several questions and a map that shows hydraulic heads of the Mahomet Aquifer. Students are prompted to draw contour lines on the potentiometric surface and add arrows indicating the direction of groundwater flow. Next, they compare their groundwater maps with a model of the aquifer before major withdrawals began. Finally, they answer a series of questions to emphasize the main points. Objectives are largely met by this exercise. Interactivity increased, as lecture content slides were reduced from 28 to 19. The percentage of students completing the related lab exercise rose from less than 80% to more than 90%. Attendance at lecture increased from less than half to ~75%.


A lecture tutorial is a short worksheet designed to be finished during class. This activity is one of several tutorials that form part of an introductory course in physical geology. The course was designed for students who are not science majors and satisfies general education requirements for physical science and quantitative reasoning

Why It Works

This activity effectively guides students through a complicated process that they have not yet done in the course. Innovation lies in moving what is typically a lab exercise into lecture in an abbreviated format. The exercise is worthwhile because it addresses the source of drinking water for the university community and demonstrates the vulnerability of the resource.

Presentation Media

Teaching Demo Presentation (Acrobat (PDF) 2.2MB Jul12 16)
Student Handout for Mahomet Aquifer (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 202kB Jul12 16)
Instructors Notes for Mahomet Aquifer (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 734kB Jul12 16)