Oceanography Group Projects In-class: A Structured Active, In-Class Learning Approach to Final Projects

Friday 3:00pm-4:00pm
Poster Session Part of Friday Poster Session


Jane Dmochowski, University of Pennsylvania
We know active-learning and group work can be effective learning strategies. Moving students from knowledge acquisition to understanding, application, analysis, and synthesis (Blooms Taxonomy of Learning) is an important teaching goal. Having a unique final product that one has created also can help students to secure learning and gain a sense of accomplishment. In my Introduction to Oceanography Course this semester, I experimented with combining all of these strategies & goals into one, asking students over two weeks to work only in-class, in groups of 3, in a structured way, to write a final paper on a coastline of their choice. This was done over four 90-minute class periods, in a class of 72 undergraduate (mostly non-STEM) students . Each class, the students turned in paper-based, structured assignments, in which they were guided to apply what they had learned throughout the last 1/4 of the class, analyze new information based on their previous knowledge, and assess their work. They also were told to add elements of each class activity to a shared online document. During the fourth class, using the shared document and a set of instructions, the groups put together a final product that synthesized what they had learned. The final project was an 7-9 paragraph paper that consisted of an overview, and sections entitled Renewable Energy, Tectonic Setting, Beaches, Sea Level Rise and a Shoreline in Flux. Every group was able to complete the paper within the allotted time, despite being very skeptical at the start of class. I will share how this course, and specifically this exercise, have evolved in the ~18 years I have taught Oceanography; what the students, Teaching Assistants and I learned during this iteration; and lastly, how this exercise can be done in other classes.