Effectiveness of incorporating active-learning techniques into a large introductory geology class

Monday 2:00pm Northrop Hall: 116


Hannah Aird, California State University-Chico
Rachel Teasdale, California State University-Chico
The CSU, Chico introductory geology general education class (GEOS 101) was redesigned in fall 2016 to infuse active learning into all class periods of two sections of 65 and 140 students. The redesign included use of small group structure, clickers, and facilitation of class activities by upper level geology or environmental science majors. The course incorporated a range of topics from 'traditional' (plate tectonics, minerals) to the more 'applied' (groundwater resources and contamination, climate change and its impact on society). Exercises were either adapted from InTeGrate materials, or newly developed. Learning and confidence data were collected from the students in the class and from the student assistants. Student assistants report that the more traditional topics were most appropriate to the course (although they felt all topics were relevant), but believe the students were more interested in societally- focused topics. Student assistants also indicated that students were more engaged in the redesigned GEOS 101 class than in their own equivalent introductory classes. All student assistants report that their content knowledge improved through the experience of helping students in the classroom. Seven of the eight student assistants also felt that their pedagogical knowledge increased through the classroom experience and our weekly preparation meetings. Learning data for students enrolled in the course indicate they have accurate prior knowledge of earthquake hazards, but not for less familiar hazards such as rock slides, floods and those associated with climate change. Comparison of pre-post activity scores indicate improved knowledge in these areas from 13-28%. Students enrolled in the course reported they enjoy the active style of learning, but found it difficult to study for exams, as many of their lecture notes comprised worksheets rather than traditional lecture notes. Based on student feedback, instructors took steps to alleviate such issues in the final third of the semester.