Keegan Fengler: Using Ice Mass and Sea Level Changes module in Introduction to Physical Geology at Central Washington University
Provenance: Keegan Fengler
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About this Course
An introductory course emphasizing the origin and nature of the common rocks and continually changing features of the Earth's crust.
One 3-hour & 20-minute
lab per week (6-week summer session)
Public comprehensive MS-granting
Syllabus (Acrobat (PDF) 223kB Oct15 15)
The majority of students in this course are non-science majors who are fulfilling their Natural Science requirement. This course is also a requirement for all Geological Science majors.
Students who complete Geol 101 should have an understanding of:
- The scientific method and its application to the development of geoscience,
- Geologic time,
- The internal structure of the earth,
- Plate tectonic theory,
- Types and origins of rocks on earth,
- The origin, type, distribution, and impact of volcanoes in the world,
- The causes, type, distribution, and impacts of earthquakes on earth,
- How the crust deforms through out geologic time.
I decided to use the Ice Mass and Sea Level Changes module in my Physical Geology course because over the last couple of years I have been transitioning my teaching style to allow for more student exploration and less passive lectures. This transition began after continually observing that students were learning the topics/keywords/concepts I was teaching but still seemed unable to link those ideas together. I concluded that students were memorizing the material they needed to pass exams but never really understood how it connected. Earth is a complex system with many interactions, so the fact that they were missing the links was part of my motivation for change.
Using the Ice Mass and Sea Level Change module allowed me to immerse my students in the process of learning. The mix of Earth science concepts and societal/human impacts was ideal. Many students feel that science is unrelated to their daily lives or that they already understand these concepts. This module presents many places where we can talk about some misconceptions that people have about sea levels, sea level changes, climate, climate change and society. The use of the various data sets, figures, table, and graphs was slightly off-putting for some students at first but the homework, assignments, animations and discussions helped build student confidence. Over the course of the module, I observed the students' confidence grow. They began to be more willing to discuss and ask questions.
Many students were very surprised by the results of Unit 4. Most students understand that sea levels are rising but also think it is a uniform process. By the time we completed Unit 4 they came to their own conclusion that sea level rise is not a uniform process and that various factors affect locations differently. After coming to that realization, the students wanted to talk more about specific places in the world. We end up revisiting our Unit 1 discussion about Bangladesh and were able to look at New York's situation more critically.
My Experience Teaching with GETSI Materials
I used the materials with practically no changes. I did skip Unit 2, Part 4 because of lack of time.
Relationship of GETSI materials to my course
I conducted the module during my summer session course that was 6 weeks long. The condensed format gave extra time to work through the module. I decided to run the module during the first 2 weeks of the course so that students could dive into the topic. I was able to refer back to this material during the rest of my course since climate, temperature, and moisture can affect crustal deformation, metamorphic processes, weathering and so much more.
- Unit 1
- (40 min) Reading was assigned to the students the day before we started the module so students were ready to talk about it. In class, I had students work in small groups to answer the questions; then, we discussed them as an entire group.
- Unit 2
- Part 1 (25 min): Discussion of the History of Sea Level Change, I used the slides provided with the module. Since my class was so small, we did a whole-group brainstorm and discussion of the slides.
- Part 2 (20 min): Review of trend lines, rates of change, and anomalies. The students and I discussed the slides and then I had them complete a worksheet I constructed during class. Having my own review worksheet may have been overkill as the students used much of the same material in Part 3. Next time I will only use my worksheet if can assign it for homework.
- Part 3 (45 min): Students worked in small groups on the Temperature: A Global Trendsetter worksheet. I did not have them construct the graphs from the raw data but used the graphs provided. Once the students had time to work on their worksheets, we discussed their findings and what the findings may mean.
- Part 4: For time-savings I excluded this section. We did talk about this briefly as a component of our Part 3 discussion.
- Unit 3
- Part 1 (40 min): I started the unit by having students watch the GRACE video two times; then, we discussed what we saw. I used the provided GRACE questions as a guide to our discussion. Students then worked on the temperature worksheet in small groups and we discussed the results. For the temperature worksheet I excluded question #6 thinking we would not have time to cover it. In hindsight, we would have had time. The length was just right for an in-class activity. Next time I use this module I will have the students do the GRACE worksheet as a homework assignment.
- Part 2 (85 min): Due to 45% of the class being absent (5 of 11 students) I only had the two groups instead of three. One group looked at the air temp/melting day data and the other group looked at the ice velocity data. I had both groups look at the ice elevation data so the entire class became experts on that subject. My strategy was useful as it gave the students common ground when they came together to discuss. At the end of the class period, the entire class gave reports to each other on what they found during their investigation. The students were hesitant to get started on this part. Reading the figures and getting them to explain what they were seeing took some time because they were worried about being wrong. They slowly became more confident as they spent more time with the material.
- Part 3 (85 min): I reorganized the groups from Part 2 so that each group now had an expert in all three subjects. Many students who were absent for Part 2 were present for Part 3. The students who were present for Part 2 started Part 3 by teaching their fellow students about what they discovered about air/temp, ice velocity, and ice elevation. Once they were done teaching each other, they began to construct their combined map by looking at the GRACE data. This part could have been shorter with other the extra time to allow the absent students to catch up.
- Part 4 (20 min): Using the slides provided by the module, we discussed how ice flow is affected by the hydrosphere, atmosphere, and cryosphere. This was a nice wrap up and the students enjoyed seeing how the activity relates to the real world.
- Unit 4
- Part 1 (10 min): This part should have been used as a homework assignment, which I did not do. Instead we watched the animation together and I asked the students guiding questions from the worksheet. I also used slides 1–6 from Part 2 to help in our discussion. The only reason I did not use this as homework was poor planning on my part. This would be a great place to save class time and have students complete as homework.
- Part 2 (25 min): The students worked on the provided worksheet in small groups. Every so often I stopped them to make sure they were on the correct track with determining the rates. We then did a whole-group discussion using the worksheet and provided lecture slides. I did not have the students calculate the Helheim's contribution.
- Part 3 (20 min): We did Part 3 as a large-group discussion. Using the slides provided I tried to relate what they had observed and calculated from Part 2 to the real world. The students were very interested in the different landscape features that showed changes in sea level.
- Unit 5
- Part 1 (15 min): As a large group, we looked over the NOAA trends website. I asked questions about areas with uniform change and variable change. Then we brainstormed ideas of why you would see variable sea level changes.
- Part 2 (45 min): Students only read about New York and California. I gave everyone a chance to read the article before splitting the students into three groups. Each group was assigned a stakeholder (government, business groups, residents) to represent. The stakeholder groups were then asked brainstorm strategies on how they could help lessen the impacts of sea level rise in New York. We had a group discussion to share their ideas. Students do not always have a good idea about what each stakeholder's role is in a community and what actions they could take. This led to many great discussions, though.
- Part 3 (10 min): Using the statements provided in the module, I selected a few and asked students if they agreed, disagreed or were neutral. This was only somewhat successful. I could have done a better job with my presentation but I also think the students were just tired and ready to be done.
All formative assessments were completed during class by having discussions and asking specific questions.
Unit 2's summative assessment was completed using the L2 (a) and (b) questions that were provided in the module. The students seemed very comfortable with this style of assessment.
For Units 3 and 4, the summative assessments were given at the same time. I used the multiple choice questions from both units (L1 and L2). Most students are very comfortable with multiple choice questions but they still need to work on reading the entire question before answering. We reviewed their answers once everyone was finished; they made some made simple mistakes but still understood the concepts.
For the final summative assessment I used the standard six questions provided with the module. The students took some time to work through the questions but most did so with a newfound confidence. Not to say they got everything correct, but they were much more confident using the figure and graphs then when we started the module.
By using this module, I had the goal of engaging my students in the process of learning. The module allowed me to transition from just lecturing, with the students passively listening/note-taking, to a more active class time. Observing the students' growing confidence using different data sets and information led me to feel that this module was a great success for my students. After we completed the module, I also observed many of my students transferring the skills they learned to other topics we covered in class. In general, there was a higher level of engagement in class during and after the module.