James Ebert: Using Exploring Geoscience Methods with Secondary Education Students in ESCI 315: Laboratory Techniques in Earth Science at SUNY Oneonta
About this Course
An intermediate to advanced course for pre-service teachers.
Syllabus (Microsoft Word 107kB Jul11 14)
A Success Story in Building Student Engagement
The module was taught during the first three weekly meetings of the Laboratory Techniques in Earth Science course. Each unit in the module provided students with engaging learning experiences. In Unit 1, students were surprised by the lack of explicit instruction in the methods of geoscience in their previous education. Unit 2 engaged the students in the topic of coastal erosion in the context of climate change, and gave them experience in systems thinking and in addressing societal issues that arise from Earth processes. In Unit 3, students were amazed at the quantity and quality of resources available for the teaching of geoscience. The summative assessment for this module involved the preparation of a lesson plan in which students explore geoscience content or skills, explicitly utilize methods of geoscience, and examine societal impacts. Results of the summative assessment were somewhat disappointing owing to the fact that I had assumed students were already well practiced in writing lesson plans. They were not. In the future, the module will be taught near the end of the course.
My Experience Teaching with InTeGrate Materials
Teaching this module was very gratifying for me as an educator. Introducing the pre-service students to the unique methods of geoscience provided these future teachers with a remarkable epiphany. They were unaware of, or had never considered that geoscientific thinking was different from their previous experiences with other sciences. The students were fully engaged in exploring and thinking about the societal impacts associated with coastal hazards related to global climate change. Lastly, the pre-service teachers were very enthusiastic and quite animated as they explored the rich array of curricular resources that are available for teaching geoscience. I am excited by the prospect of teaching this module again with a new crop of pre-service teachers!
Relationship of InTeGrate Materials to my Course
Laboratory Techniques in Earth Science meets once per week for 15 weeks. Each meeting is 110 minutes in duration. I taught this course for many years. However, upon becoming chair of the department, I had to reduce my teaching obligations. I recruited a local teacher and former student as an adjunct to teach the class. She has done so for six years, essentially using my syllabus for the course with minimal modification. The instructor was kind enough to let me "borrow" the class for nearly all of the first three weeks of the semester to pilot test the module. After the instructor gave a brief introduction to the course in the first meeting, I began the module.
Students completed the module during the subsequent two class meetings and through considerable work outside of class. Final assignments were collected at the fourth meeting of the class. In subsequent meetings, the instructor referenced the module as an example of teaching multidisciplinary content and as a reminder of what should be included in lesson plans.
In Unit 1, I evaluated the QRS writing that the students did on the assigned reading and their essays comparing the methods of geoscience with the "classic" scientific method. Students were genuinely surprised that their understanding of the nature of science was incomplete, lacking the methods of geoscience. In Unit 2, I evaluated the students' concept maps and position papers. The students were extremely engaged in researching the processes and results of coastal erosion and storms. In Unit 3, I evaluated the annotated bibliographies and lesson plans. Students were amazed at the wealth of resources for teaching geoscience that they discovered as they prepared their bibliographies. They were less enthusiastic about writing lesson plans, largely owing to lack of prior experience.
There was a great deal of out-of-class work in the implementation of this module, largely because the class in which it was piloted met only once per week. This suggests to me that many parts of this module could be adapted quite easily for online use.
My goals for including this module in the Laboratory Techniques course were to 1) introduce students to the unique methods of geoscience, 2) engage them in systems thinking through a societally relevant topic, 3) introduce the pre-service teachers to the bounty of instructional materials that are available for teaching geoscience, and 4) to provide the pre-service teachers with practice in preparing lesson plans for classroom activities that would stimulate student interest and engage them in inquiry-based experiences.
The students in my class met or exceeded my expectations for goals 1 and 2, approached satisfactory achievement of goal 3 and fell short of achieving goal 4. In large measure, the students did meet goal 3 though there were some significant omissions in their annotated bibliographies. This will be remedied in future semesters by explicit instruction to self-evaluate their annotated bibliographies before submitting them for evaluation by the instructor. Students in the pilot test of this module were not as successful as I would have liked to see in achieving goal 4 — preparation of the lesson plan. Unfortunately, I had assumed that these pre-service teachers were well versed in preparation of lesson plans, but they were not. This will be less of a problem in future use of the module by moving the module to the middle or end of the course after the students have had multiple opportunities to write lesson plans as part of other assignments in the course.