Leigh Stearns: Using Ice Mass and Sea Level Changes in Environmental Geology at the University of Kansas
About this courseAn introductory geoscience course
Syllabus (Acrobat (PDF) 107kB Oct5 15)
The course I had planned to test this module in was canceled, so I ended up teaching the module in my colleague's Environmental Geology course (a course I used to teach). For three consecutive weeks, I took over the Environmental Geology course and taught (nearly all of) the Ice Mass and Sea Level Changes. I have taught a number of climate and ice sheet mass balance classes while at KU, but have struggled finding good activities for students to do in class. Working on this GETSI module really helped me think about scaffolding the learning that students do and creating activities that build throughout the module.
Overall, the students seemed very engaged in the material and thoughtful in their responses. There were more students with a science background in the course than I had anticipated, and I think they found some of the material too basic. After the first two units, I did slightly adjust the material based on their capability. Since I was the "substitute teacher" and the students were not accustomed to working in groups, I did encounter some resistance to the active and group-learning approach. The students did the work, but I had to really encourage them to talk and collaborate within their groups.
My Experience Teaching with GETSI Materials
The students enjoyed looking at data and thinking about how data inform real models and projections. Unit 1 really helped students think about the bigger picture of sea level rise and get used to participating in class discussions.
Relationship of GETSI materials to my course
Unfortunately, the course I was hoping to test this module in was canceled the term I was supposed to test. As a result, I taught this module in a colleague's "Environmental Geology" course while she was at a workshop. This course meets once a week for 3 hours (7–10 pm) and is for non-majors. This arrangement worked out well but had two clear drawbacks. First, the students did not work very well in groups (their primary instructor does not have them work in groups). I spent a bit of time initiating group discussions and encouraging them to collaborate. Second, the goals of the module did not really fit into my colleague's course goals very clearly. The students seemed to like the GETSI material and activities, but it probably seemed disjointed to them.
I did at least one summative assessment at the end of each unit—usually a multiple choice question, in the interest of time. Students had to complete all of the Antarctic Summative Assessment as part of their final exam in this course. I was very surprised with how well they did on this final assessment.
I was hoping students would learn some quantitative skills, understand components of sea level rise and ice sheet mass loss, and be able to interpret and describe climate graphs. I was pleased to see that students were able to do these things, and showed increased interest in climate processes, at the end of the module.