Jonathan Harvey: Using Eyes on the Hydrosphere: Tracking Water Resources in Earth Systems Science at Fort Lewis College
About this CourseLower level, general education course, with mostly freshman and sophomore non-science majors.
GEOL107 Earth Sys Sci Syllabus (Acrobat (PDF) 207kB Feb26 20)
The course was an introductory survey of Earth science taught to mainly lower-level non-science majors. In the past, it has included 3 fairly traditional hours of lecturing per week, with one 3-hr lab each week, in which students do more active-learning, hands-on activities. I thought it would be a good venue for testing the Eyes on the Hydrosphere module. I was not actually the professor of the course during the test of the module, but I did teach the module as a guest lecturer. I have taught the entire course at other times.
My Experience Teaching with GETSI MaterialsI was pilot testing the module, so I did not modify it from its intended use.
Relationship of GETSI Materials to my Course
The course is 16 weeks long, and the module was implemented for 2.5 weeks from Weeks ~5 to ~7. Students had already had an introduction to the lithosphere and atmosphere, and this was their introduction to the hydrosphere.
To be honest I'm not sure how the module was referenced after it was completed as I was not in the classroom to see.
AssessmentsI employed only formative assessment during Unit 1 exercises: collecting the water cycle diagram to make sure each had completed it with reasonable accuracy. I also posed no-stakes questions to groups as I made roaming observations of the jigsaw exercise.
In Unit 2, I used both formative assessment (asking questions to the group prior to starting unit 2 exercises, then to individuals while they worked on the lab) and summative assessment (more thoughtful questions within Unit 2.1 and 2.2) as a summative assessment.
In Unit 3, I did only formative assessment, and collected the 'What's in my watershed' assignment to make sure they completed it with acceptable effort.
I was not the instructor of the class, so additional methods of assessment of the exercises were not up to me. That said, I believe students were asked questions from the assignment (e.g. about measuring the hydrosphere) on the midterm later in the semester.
OutcomesI wanted to use the module to give the students an active-learning route to understanding the hydrosphere and how we keep track of it. In introductory courses like this one, it is easy to fall into a rut of lecture-lecture-lecture-lab, lecture-lecture-lecture-lab, etc. This provided a more active and dynamic way to teach students about the hydrosphere.
I think that in my implementation, it was mainly those students who were independently interested and motivated that benefited from the module. The module exercises ask a lot from the student in terms of what they learn in Unit 1 and must recall in Units 2 and 3. The computer exercises in Unit 2 were also quite laborious (less so now that they have been revised). Given the high expected input from the students, some were frustrated by it and vocalized that they wish they could just be lectured about it. So it goes with any class, though. That said, I got a lot of comments about how people found it fascinating to learn about the water resources of their hometowns (Unit 3) and how we keep track of them. That tells me that students on the whole got more out of it when they are asked to dig into the data.