Reforming geoscience laboratories instruction: impacts on student attitudes and achievement

Tuesday 4:30pm-5:30pm Red Gym
Poster Session


Ann Long, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Rachel Oien, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
We present the results of transitioning laboratory activities in an introductory physical geology course from passive to active learning. It has been shown that student-driven investigation has the capacity to promote increased learner engagement and enhance retention, but surprisingly little research has documented the impact of reforming college-level laboratory classes. We observed the results of reforming individual laboratory classes in "Physical Geology", a large, introductory geology class at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, collecting attitude and performance data before and after the intervention. Laboratories most in need of reform were identified through instructor assessment and student survey. Interestingly, pre-reform student feedback was most negative for lab activities which are computer-based. In response, we removed computers from the lab space and increased the length and number of activities involving physical manipulation of samples and models, designing 6 new laboratory activities to be more collaborative, open-ended and "hands-on". The key finding is that both student course satisfaction and perceived course effectiveness increased after the reforms, both for individual labs and for the lab section as a whole. The change in student performance is also presented. These reforms were supported via the NSF's Widening Implementation & Demonstration of Evidence Based Reforms (WIDER) program.