James Ebert, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, SUNY College at Oneonta.
Short description of the course:
Field-based research projects can be the heart of a course in sedimentary geology. Course content, organization, readings and laboratory experiences are dictated by the nature of the specific project. Less content may be "covered" with this approach, but students' depth of understanding, sense of accomplishment, and growth in confidence are greatly enhanced. Scientific reasoning skills, which are generally not addressed in the traditional lecture/lab format, increase noticeably. Using this approach, 50% of class projects over 4 years were of sufficient merit to present at regional GSA conferences.
Design Philosophy: How is teaching the methods of geoscience integrated into the course?
My course in Sedimentary Geology (GEOL 360) is designed around a large-scale, semester-long research project. Projects investigate sedimentologic questions or questions of paleoenvironmental interpretation. Other projects examine stratigraphic relationships between outcrops (typically two). Within these contexts, most principles of sedimentary geology can be explored and a variety of geological methods are employed, from asking questions, to forumlating hypotheses, to field observation and interpretation. In addition, the research skills of questioning, forming hypotheses, gathering data, synthesizing and interpreting data, drawing inferences and making conclusions are addressed. For many projects, the additional skills of preparing results for presentation and presentation at conferences are also utilized.
Key Activities: How do these activities address teaching the methods of geoscience?
The key activity in this course is a semester long field project. A complete description of projects and their design may be found on the SERC Teaching Sedimentary Geology in the 21st Century website.
Assessment: How are the methods of geoscience assessed?
Student understanding of the methods of geoscience could be assessed by examining the hypotheses they formulate, which data are chosen to answer various questions and how well conclusions are supported by the data presented.