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Starting Point-Teaching Entry Level Geoscience > Topics and Themes
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Topics and Themes

Teaching Methods


  • Campus-Based Learning uses the campus environment itself as a teaching tool.
  • ConcepTests are conceptual multiple-choice questions that focus on one key concept of an instructor's learning goals for a lesson.
  • Cooperative Learning involves students working in groups to accomplish learning goals.
  • Experience-Based Environmental Projects get students personally involved and invested, moving the learning experience from the classroom to their own lives.
  • Gallery Walk activities get students up out of their chairs and actively working together.
  • Game-Based Learning was written to assist geoscience faculty who want to start using games to help them teach.
  • Interactive Lectures provide short activities that can break up a lecture.
  • Jigsaws each student develops some expertise with one data set, then teaches a few classmates about it (and learns about related data sets from those classmates).
  • Investigative Case-Based Learning involves students in addressing real world problems.
  • Just-in-Time teaching gets students to read assigned material outside of class, respond to short questions online, then participate in discussion and collaborative exercises in the following class period.
  • Lecture Tutorials are short worksheets that students complete in class to make lecture more interactive.
  • Peer Review uses interaction around writing to refine students understanding.
  • Role-Playing immerses students in debate around Earth science issues.
  • Service Learning offers the opportunity to link academic learning with community service.
  • Socratic Questioning turns a lecture into a guided discussion.
  • Spreadsheets Across the Curriculum is a project which promotes student construction of spreadsheets and use of elementary mathematics to solve problems in context.
  • Structured Academic Controversy is a type of cooperative learning strategy in which small teams of students learn about a controversial issue from multiple perspectives.
  • Student Research engages student interest and provides opportunities for them to participate in active learning.
  • Studio Teaching is done in under circumstances that maximize students working together in groups and being responsible for their own learning.
  • Teaching with Data helps faculty find and integrate real data sets into their classes.
  • Teaching with GIS in the Geosciences shows how this powerful new tool can be used to help teach geoscience.
  • Teaching with Google Earth provides detailed instructions for bringing rich imagery and interactive information into the classroom.
  • Teaching with Interactive Demonstrations helps faculty use effective these hands-on, inquiry-based learning opportunities in class or lab. (Includes what was previously Physical Analog Models.)
  • Teaching with Models helps students understand the relationships between data and Earth processes.
    • Conceptual Models are qualitative models that help highlight important connections in real world systems and processes.
    • Mathematical and Statistical Models involve solving relevant equation(s) of a system or characterizing a system based upon its statisical parameters.
  • Teaching with Visualizations helps students see how systems work. (Includes what was previously Visualization Models.)

Designing a Course


  • Browse Course Descriptions - a searchable collection.
  • Assessment helps faculty find ways to understand what their students are learning.
  • Designing an Earth System Course provides help creating a course with a systems emphasis.
  • Field Labs provides tips and help for getting students outside.
  • Indoor Labs are structured investigations and experiments of materials, models, and other equipment.
  • Using an Earth History Approach provides faculty with resources and insights on teaching from this perspective.
  • The First Day of Class describes several different ways to focus on student learning, starting on the first day of class, and includes a collection of example activities.
  • Teaching Urban Students provides information about how to effectively teach in an urban environment. Urban students bring a rich set of experiences to the classroom that may be significantly different than those of students in small-town settings. Effective teaching of urban students requires instructors to tap into these rich experiences, cultural customs, and practical skills sets.

Teaching about the Earth System