Peter Berquist: Using Carbon, Climate, and Energy Resources at Thomas Nelson Community College
About This Course
A traditional introductory-level physical geology course.
Syllabus (Acrobat (PDF) 179kB Sep4 15) (also available as a Word document (Microsoft Word 54kB Sep4 15))
A Success Story in Building Student EngagementThese materials were used in an introductory physical geology class for non-majors and with students with a wide degree of interest in geoscience. I was interested to see how these materials were received because very few of my students were interested in geology.
My Experience Teaching with InTeGrate Materials
I used all of the the module materials directly as written, with very little modification of activities or assignments.
Relationship of InTeGrate Materials to My CourseThis was a 17-week course, and we piloted the material in the final four weeks of the semester. We started with Unit 1 and worked sequentially and continually through each unit. I did not prepare students in any particular way for this module, because the structure of the class is that we transition to new topics every week or every other week. There were only a few weeks remaining to the semester after our pilot, so there were only avenues to tangentially reference the material presented within the module.
Within each unit we have embedded a variety of formative assessments that students and instructors can use to asses learning. Based on my observations, a strength of these assessments was the diversity of formats, which combined active learning strategies with meaningful assessment. Students appreciated that they were short and in some cases interactive. For some of the in-class assessments, students wished they had more time. The greatest barrier I found with the formative assessments was with students not completing assessments assigned as homework.
Summative assessments for Units 1–5 are brief quizzes, which can be taken at the end of each unit, or combined into one comprehensive test. The exception is Unit 6, where the assessment is in the form of a short paper or longer essay question. I included the summative assessments on my final exam and in general, this worked adequately. However, several weeks had passed since we had covered earlier units, so students tended to not do as well with those questions. In the future, I will likely deploy the summative assessments after each unit and include aspects on high-stakes exams.
Overall, I wanted students to critically evaluate information, gain an understanding of the size of carbon reservoirs, know how carbon moves throughout Earth, understand how climate and carbon have changed in the past, compare modern climatic observations to past climate records, and comprehend the direct relationships between energy sources, atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations, and climate change. Additionally, I hoped that students would gain confidence working with graphical data, using math, and with each other. For the students who participated in all activities and complete all assignments, I believe they met these goals. At times, students did not readily make the connections between units, in which they perceived each unit as a separate topic that had no relation to previous or upcoming topics. Based on these observations, we have since modified the explanatory text and content of many activities to clarify these important connections, and for future classes I will stress the connections between units more clearly.