Evidence for Reformed Teaching in Undergraduate Geoscience Course Syllabi

Wednesday 12:05 PT / 1:05 MT / 2:05 CT / 3:05 ET Online
Oral Session Part of Oral Session III


Katherine Ryker, University of South Carolina-Columbia
Karen Viskupic, Boise State University
Doug Czajka, Utah Valley University
Rachel Teasdale, California State University-Chico
A syllabus introduces students to information about a course, is one of the first ways students and instructors interact, and sets the tone of the course. We reviewed course syllabi of instructors who we observed using the RTOP (Reformed Teaching Observation Protocol). This was done to determine if the teaching practices observed in the classroom correlate with the description of the course in the syllabus.

A team of trained observers categorized 321 US introductory and upper-level geoscience classes based on total RTOP score as: Teacher-Centered (TC, ≤30), Transitional (TR, 31–49), or Student-Centered (SC, ≥50).

Syllabi were randomly sampled from introductory and majors courses in the TC and SC categories (n=40). Learning Objectives (LO) are conveyed more frequently in SC introductory courses (100%) and majors courses (80%) than for TC courses (50% introductory and majors). TC courses have higher proportions of LO that use low level Bloom's Taxonomy (89% for introductory and 76% for majors) than SC courses, which have a range of low-medium- and high-level Bloom's Taxonomy language. A higher proportion of student grades come from high stakes summative assessments (exams) in TC courses. For example, exam grades are weighted more heavily in TC introductory courses (66% of final grades) than SC introductory courses (21% of final grades). SC course grades more frequently come from additional activities, including participation (23% of SC grades vs. 5% of TC grades). Syllabi for some SC courses indicate students have some choice in the activities on which they are graded, but there is no evidence of this opportunity in TC course syllabi.

Preliminary analysis suggests that syllabi generally reflect the instructional category determined by direct observations. As instructors reform their teaching, syllabi should be clearly aligned with the in-class experience and the instructor's approach to the course.

Presentation Media

Evidence for Reformed Teaching in Undergraduate Geoscience Course Syllabi - EER 2020 (Acrobat (PDF) 307kB Jul15 20)

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