Initial Publication Date: May 15, 2012

Geologic Disasters and the Enviroment

Kaatje Kraft, Department of Physical Sciences, Mesa Community College.

This page is a supplement to the original course description found here

Short description of the course:

This course teaches the essentials of geologic disasters and environmental geology to non-major students. Students examine human interactions with Earth and vice versa. This course is taught through a case study approach.

Design Philosophy: How is teaching the methods of geoscience integrated into the course?

To integrate the process of science in this course, we focus on how different types of evidence have been used to both understand the geologic processes that produce the hazard and to assess specific risks. Discussion of different types of evidence is explicit as is a big focus on how science is incorporated with other types of analysis to make estimates of risk and ultimately policy decisions. In this way, students learn about the process of science and how it is situated in our larger culture and government.

Key Activities: How do these activities address teaching the methods of geoscience?

Each section of the class begins with a study of the earth processes that underpin the risk. We explicitly discuss the types of evidence that have been used to understand the process. We then examine a case study in detail focusing on the evidence that the process is taking place in this location; the evidence for specific hazards in specific locations; and the evidence for the frequency of the hazard. We then look at the social and political context to understand how risk is characterized and which aspects of the hazard are of highest concern to local stakeholders. Students are asked to design a research plan to better understand one aspect of the risk. They then write a note to the city council describing the evidence for the risk and justifying why their plan should be undertaken.

Assessment: How are the methods of geoscience assessed?

To assess understanding of the process of science during the course, I monitor class discussions for misconceptions. These are addressed in class.

Reflections throughout the class within a class notebook system are graded for completion as important formative assessment which provides insight to the instructor as the semester progresses.

Understanding the Process of Science is 40% of the final grade. This portion of the grade is calculated from Questions from the Process of Science assessment which is administered as part of the final exam in addition to written assignments (e.g., letter to the city council) which are graded for understanding of process of science in addition to content using a rubric.