Wednesday A: Innovative Course Activities

Wednesday 1:30pm-4:00pm Northrop Hall: 116
Oral Session

Session Chairs

Diane Doser, University of Texas at El Paso
Cory Forbes, University of Nebraska at Lincoln



1:30pm
Using InTeGrate Materials in Large Introductory Environmental Science Courses
Diane Doser, University of Texas at El Paso

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Every fall semester from 2012-2016 I taught a large section (120-130 students) of "Introduction to Environmental Science". Over 90% of students in the course were non-science majors, over 80% were Hispanic and over 60% were freshman. During 2012 and 2013 the course was taught in a lecture format, although some active learning strategies (e.g., think-pair-share, voting cards) were incorporated. The first InTeGrate materials from the "Climate of Change" module were introduced into the course in 2013. The overwhelmingly positive response of the students to the hands on, research based InTeGrate activities during 2013, led to the conversion of my class format. In 2014 I switched to meeting twice a week for 80 minutes with 10-15 minutes of lecture and the remainder of the class time devoted to group activities. Weekly reading reflections due before class insured that most students had read the introductory materials. As more InTeGrate materials became available these were introduced into the course, until in fall 2016 about 40% of the course used InTeGrate materials. Each year I observed a steady increase in overall course grades, although the rigor of assignments and exams did not change. In addition, course evaluations and other feedback indicated the students found InTeGrate materials engaging, enjoyable and relevant to environmental issues in the community. The group activity format required careful planning early in the course and assistance from 1 or 2 graduate teaching assistants to insure all groups were able to stay on track and have their questions answered promptly. As students became accustomed to the format and more confident in their reasoning skills, they needed less direct supervision.
1:45pm
Geocaching as a tool for experiential learning and self-guided adventures in large geology courses
Kelly Lazar, Clemson University
Stephen Moysey, East Carolina University
John Wagner, Clemson University
Alan B. Coulson, Clemson University
scott brame, Clemson University

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It is uncommon for large service geology courses to provide engaging outdoor experiences that effectively mimic the experiences of working geologists, a critical component of recruiting students to geology. To address these deficiencies, extra credit activities were created that utilize the hobby of geocaching to provide students with outdoor, extracurricular, place-based learning experiences. Students from geology service courses completed short geology lessons at each geocaching site, using Google Forms to report their observations and data. Each activity requires the completion of an online activity form and the submission of a 'geoselfie', used to ensure that students visited the location and to promote the sharing of these geology experiences on social media. Across more than 700 completed activity evaluations, approximately two-thirds of student evaluations agreed that the student enjoyed the activity and learned something while completing it, and almost half of evaluations indicated the student wanted to learn more about the topic after completion of the activity. Participation in activities varies mostly by gender and achievement, and to some degree, by class rank. Participation rates were largely unaffected by the student's major or ethnicity. Students indicated enjoyment in learning about local geology, exploring places around campus they would typically never visit, and joining a larger community of geology students. We aim to expand the number and types of activities offered to these students to allow them to explore their diverse interests within the geosciences.
2:00pm
The Wicked Problem of Food Security: Modules that Promote Interdisciplinary and Systems Thinking Using AGO
Amy Potter, Armstrong State University
Rebecca Boger, CUNY Brooklyn College
Russanne Low, Institute for Global Environmental Strategies

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Over the next several decades, food security will continue to be one of the most pressing issues facing our planet. With this in mind, three professors from different disciplinary backgrounds, cultural geography, geosciences, and science education, created a 3-week module on food security using ArcGIS Online to integrate social and environmental datasets. The interdisciplinary module was designed for online and face-to-face venues and tested in different classroom contexts: geography, environmental science, and sustainability. During our presentation, we will discuss the three-week module, where we have taken an Earth systems approach to understand and address world food insecurity issues, and explore how social, economic, and political factors impact decision making and can improve or compromise the biogeochemical interactions provided by the Earth system as they pertain to food production. Students will explore the very factors that cause food insecurity (including climate, socio-economic, and physical) through readings, lecture, case studies, and geospatial analysis using ArcGIS Online. The module culminates with a small research project on food security in three localities, urban New York City, rural Nebraska, and developing islands in the Caribbean. AGO web maps with environmental and social datasets were created for each locality that students used in their final projects. The food security module is available through the SERC InTeGrate website. This session will show how the materials in the module can be used as well as how they were made, so that instructors will know how to create their own modules that include AGO.
2:15pm
Education in the Food-Energy-Water-Nexus: A Transdisciplinary Community
Cory Forbes, University of Nebraska at Lincoln
Hannah Scherer, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State Univ

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Institutions of higher education must take a leading role in preparing all global citizens for the food, energy, and water (FEW) challenges of today and tomorrow. The Food-Energy-Water Nexus concept has emerged as a unique opportunity to pursue a sustained, systemic, and transdisciplinary education initiative, including program evaluation and education research, focused on FEW issues. This effort spans a wide array of contexts, including K-12 and postsecondary classrooms, informal and non-formal learning environments, and in public spaces. However, no systematic effort currently exists to study strategies, processes, and outcomes of education focused on the FEW-Nexus. As a result, little research has been conducted to understand teaching and learning in the FEW-Nexus. To address this need, we are cultivating a national network of scholars engaged in FEW-Nexus educational programming and research through the recently-established Multistate Research Committee (NCDC231) - Collaborative for Research on Food, Energy, and Water Education (NC-FEW). NC-FEW will serve as a nucleus for efforts to 1) advance FEW education efforts; 2) foster FEW education research; and 3) enhance collaboration around FEW education and education research. In this presentation, we provide an overarching vision for this network through which to catalyze collaborative projects and comprehensive education research programs that produce empirical findings, delineating baseline data to be used to ascertain the effectiveness of FEW-Nexus education programs, develop innovative tools to aid in educational responsiveness to emergent FEW issues, and to address FEW issues worldwide through effective, research-based educational methods and interventions. We discuss novel theoretical and analytical perspectives the FEW-Nexus concept affords by emphasizing coupled human-natural systems and science-informed decision-making as core elements of teaching and learning within the FEW-Nexus. We illustrate these key themes of this work with example programmatic elements and selected empirical data from geoscience education programs at partner institutions grounded in the FEW-Nexus.
2:30pm
Break
2:45pm
Lab-like Learning in Lecture – Video Snips and Tutorials for Active Learning Exercises
Scott Brande, University of Alabama at Birmingham

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Lecture and laboratory classes are commonly understood as serving different purposes and delivering different student experiences. For example, lectures in introductory science courses typically focus on student engagement, the presentation of information that organizes, simplifies, and explains complex issues, and the offering of challenging questions to foster student critical thinking. In contrast, in a typical laboratory course a student encounters materials that require physical manipulation and the collecting and analysis of data while the student works in a collaborative group. Although these laboratory experiences are not normally associated with lecture-format courses, it does not follow that the lecture environment cannot incorporate at least some elements of a laboratory learning experience. I will present examples from geoscience, chemistry, and physics, of how some laboratory-like active learning experiences may be deployed in a lecture-format classroom environment, or adapted for an online environment. Critical components for these lab-like student experiences are generated by the instructor from appropriately chosen video snips and coordinated guided viewing questions. I will present a generalized workflow and template that will be useful to instructors interested in creating their own laboratory-like learning activities for their lecture-based course. A framework for these activities may also be useful for professional development by graduate students, postdoctoral students, and by instructors of lecture courses without an laboratory component. The integration of some elements of a simulated laboratory experience during lecture is an additional strategy that may be useful for enhancing student engagement and creating additional opportunities for active learning during lecture or other format classes.
3:00pm
Using Research Instrumentation as a Teaching Tool in Geosciences Through Remote and On-site Operation
Christopher Vidito, Florida International University
Jeff Ryan, University of South Florida
Rosemary Hickey-Vargas, Florida International University
Dr. James MacDonald, Florida Gulf Coast University
Mary Beck, Valencia Community College
Dr. Sven Holbik, Valencia Community College

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Remotely operated research instrumentation as a pedagogical tool in geosciences is the focus of this study. The goals of this intervention are to engage students in scientific inquiry and to further their understanding of their class activities using the Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) and/or the Electron Micro Probe Analyzer (EPMA). These instruments were operated from the Florida Center for Analytical Electron Microscopy (FCAEM) at Florida International University. Initially three other institutions were involved in this TUES NSF project: University of South Florida, Florida Gulf Coast University, and Valencia College. Since its inception in 2013, the project has expanded to include seven additional colleges. Remote faculty access the instruments over the internet to teach courses for both Geoscience majors and non-majors. At FIU, the SEM and EPMA are used to enhance teaching of Earth Materials (GLY 3202). For this class, three active-learning projects were adapted to allow students to use the instruments. In one lab, the objective was mineral identification with the SEM. Students noted physical attributes of 10 minerals shown in secondary electrons and compositional variations in backscattered electrons. Energy Dispersive Spectroscopy (EDS) was employed to obtain the chemical composition of the minerals. In another, the EPMA was used to obtain quantitative data of olivine from a volcanic sample in order to interpret its crystallization temperature. In a final project, students were given unknown rocks of igneous, sedimentary, hydrothermal and metamorphic origin. Working in groups, they first designed a strategy to identify the minerals and rocks using techniques they had learned, and then carried that out with guidance from the instructor. Most students surveyed from this FIU class indicated their experience with the EPMA/SEM gave them greater confidence in their understanding of science as a result of collecting and interpreting data and that it facilitated learning of the course material.
3:15pm
Writing in Geology to Reduce Math Anxiety
Victor Ricchezza, University of South Florida
Len Vacher, University of South Florida

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Students in GLY 4866: Computational Geology at the University of South Florida learn to solve mathematical problems in a geologic context. Quantitative literacy – a fundamental set of skills and habits of mind – is essential to geologists in any of a variety of occupations, and this course helps prepare students for those careers. Based on suggestions from prior interviews with alumni, we introduced a detailed reading and writing assignment into the course for fall 2016. Students submitted a general written statement about how the felt about math, and then read The Math Instinct: Why you're a Mathematical Genius (along with Lobsters, Fish, Cats, and Dogs) by Keith Devlin over the course of the semester. After each of the 13 chapters, students gave a short written weekly response, and at the conclusion of the semester they submitted a 1-2 page paper outlining their feelings about the book and how their attitude toward math had changed over the semester (if applicable). Although the assignment was given without the intent of publication, after grade submission for the semester, a post hoc record review was approved by the USF IRB due to the minimal risk to students once the data was de-identified. Analysis by grounded theory coding indicates significant gains in student attitudes toward their own math confidence, with similar reductions in stated math anxiety. While the relatively small sample size (n=28) and ad hoc nature of the study preclude making generalizations beyond this semester, results are very promising. Similar assignments are planned for future semesters, and future studies include more formal attitude surveys and post-class interviews.
3:30pm
Collaborative testing in undergraduate oceanography and geology classes
Barbara Bruno, University of Hawaii at Manoa
Jennifer Engels, University of Hawaii at Manoa
Garrett Ito, University of Hawaii at Manoa
Jeffrey Gillis-Davis, University of Hawaii at Manoa
Henrietta Dulai, University of Hawaii at Manoa
Glenn Carter, University of Hawaii at Manoa
Chip Fletcher, University of Hawaii at Manoa
Daniela Bottjer-Wilson, University of Hawaii at Manoa

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As part of a school-wide course transformation project at the University of Hawaii to improve student learning and retention, multiple geology and oceanography instructors are introducing two-stage exams (Gilley and Clarkston, 2014) in their undergraduate courses. The first stage is the traditional exam, where students take the exam individually. The second stage (which directly follows the first) is collaborative, in which groups of students answer the same (or a subset of) questions posed during the first stage. The group turns in a single exam paper, forcing the students to reach consensus on each answer. Groups may be formed by the instructor or self-selected by students, and can vary in size. Instructors can weigh the two stages of the exams however they like. We analyzed 289 student scores on 14 two-stage midterm and final exams given by six different instructors. For each exam, the mean group score (stage two) exceeded the mean individual score (stage one), and all gains were statistically significant at α=0.05. Students who scored in the bottom quartile of the individual exam experienced the greatest mean improvement from individual to group. Students who scored in the top quartile of the individual exam had a lower, but still statistically significant, mean increase. The vast majority of groups had a group score that exceeded the scores of all individuals in that group, which argues against the theory that the increased group score is due to group members simply copying answers from the top-performing individual in their group. A cohort analysis revealed that groups containing all combinations of high- and low- performing students during stage one experienced statistically significant mean gains in exam scores, and selecting groups to include a mix of high- and low- performing students can be a highly effective way to proactively reduce the achievement gap.
3:45pm
Discussion