Assessing the Efficacy of a Role-Playing Activity in a Post-Secondary Geoscience Course

Wednesday 1:30-2:00pm PT / 2:30-3:00pm MT / 3:30-4:00pm CT / 4:30-5:00pm ET Online
Poster Session Part of Posters


Jennifer Cuthbertson, University of Calgary
Claire Paton, University of Calgary

This event has already occurred.

The Sleeping Mountain is a role-playing scenario in which students play the roles of townspeople, politicians, land developers, and geoscientists in a town hall debate about the risks from a nearby volcano that is showing signs of unrest. The scenario was originally developed by Janice Cooper, and is posted on the SERC website with the permission of Glenn Jaecks ( This role-playing activity was incorporated into a senior level, post-secondary igneous petrology class in order to guide students to: 1) examine methods used to monitor volcanoes, 2) evaluate the risks of volcanic activity in a fictitious setting, and 3) experience the ways in which volcanoes affect the lives of people living near them. The activity is based on actual events that occurred at Mammoth Mountain in California in the early 1990's. The students were assigned roles prior to the activity, and were required to read several articles on the seismicity and gas emissions at Mammoth Mountain. The town hall was held during one class session (50 minutes), and all students were required to contribute at least one thoughtful comment or question (n = 40 students). The instructor moderated the debate and provided guidance when necessary. Following the activity, the students were surveyed anonymously online regarding their learning experience. Analysis of the feedback shows that most students felt they learned about volcano monitoring from the activity (18 out of 26 responses agree), and that most enjoyed participating in the activity (19 out of 26 responses agree). In addition, 84% of student respondents felt that the activity was memorable and/or unique compared to the ways that they have learned material in other classes. Results indicate that the Sleeping Mountain activity provided an engaging and different way for students to effectively learn about volcanoes and their impact on society.