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What Students Want to Learn

This material was originally created for On the Cutting Edge: Professional Development for Geoscience Faculty
and is replicated here as part of the SERC Pedagogic Service.
John Wagner, Clemson University
Course: Earth Resources
60 students
Surveying your students about what they want to learn in a course can tell you a lot about them and their interests, and how to connect your learning goals to their interests. It can also help get them invested in the course, provided you make an effort to address their interests.

The Activity

Following the viewing of the video "Geology: Why Bother," I hand out index cards and ask each student to write down
  • their name (including nickname)
  • hometown (used to divide groups geographically into small sub-groups for a later out-of-class project assignment)
  • major (used to create diverse small subgroups to work on out-of-class project assignment), and
  • one or two things about earth resources that they would like to see covered during the semester.

I group these items into common themes and incorporate the topics into a day-by-day course outline which I then hand out the second day of class. In this way, I hope to create a sense of ownership in the course on the part of the students - in that we would be emphasizing topics that they had selected. The course is the second semester of the required geology sequence for non-majors and anything that can get students to invest part of themselves into this course helps generate class discussion and interest.