Motivated by Eisner: Physical Geology assignments that connect to students' lives and everyday experiences

Friday 3:00pm-4:00pm Student Union: Ballroom B
Poster Session Part of Friday Session


Tarin Weiss, Westfield State University
This project draws on the philosophy of Elliot Eisner, summarized in Educational Leadership, 61(4). Primarily, the concept of education as mainly preparatory is flawed and leads to "intellectually irrelevant" learning. For learning to be meaningful, it must peak students' interests and be intellectually challenging. WSU's Physical Geology course is designed to meet that assertion through varied assignments. Two assignments, a Quick Report and the Hometown Geology Summary, are presented in light of Eisner's challenge; to create opportunities for students to use effective judgement, critical thinking, varied representational modes, and their idiosyncratic talents collaboratively to make a contribution to, and beyond, the classroom.

The Quick Report is a 5-minute presentation focusing on how a student's major (or interest) relates to, or is informed by, the geosciences. Students present their findings and questions following deliberation, research, and synthesis of information. After an initial struggle with understanding the assignment's interdisciplinary nature, most students create wholly unique presentations that teach us all something new. Titles of reports have included; The Landscape as Muse, Finding Bin Laden, The Music of California's Earthquakes, and Extreme/Endangered Habitats around a Hotspot.

Through the Hometown Geology Summary, a summative assessment, students respond to the question, In what ways has the Earth (geology/landscape) impacted your hometown? or In what ways has your hometown impacted the Earth? Alone, or in pairs, students research and describe local bedrock geology and the interconnectedness between humans and the local landscape. They question practices that have driven progress and consider future implications of human activity and/or natural change. Submitted work may use the form of a traditional paper and/or more creative modes (creative writing, film, photography, drawing, or music). Summaries have focused on, for example, topographical relief and car-buying decisions, the legacy of brownstone quarries, caves as smuggler's hideouts, and the economic boost from beaches.