The purpose of this study guide is to help teachers prepare a unit using the information presented on this website. To explore some of the different approaches that can be taken, follow the links below.
The Starting Point project is exploring the ability of on-line resources to catalyze improvements in undergraduate teaching. The goal is to develop a resource that intimately integrates pedagogy with teaching resources and fully supports a virtual community of educators. Starting Point attempts to bridge the gap between information about teaching methods and the everyday experiences of geoscience faculty by providing geoscience specific arguments and examples. In every case, Starting Point tries to provide all of the information needed for a faculty member or graduate student to make an informed decision about the methodology that they use in a particular teaching situation, and to implement a technique easily and well.
The Earth system is often represented by interlinking and interacting "spheres" of processes and phenomena, including the atmosphere, hydrosphere, biosphere, geosphere, cryosphere, and anthroposphere. The difficulty with any representation that divides the system is the danger of continuing a deconstructed perception of the holistic Earth system - in reality no part of the Earth system can be considered in isolation from any other part. An understanding of these complex interrelationships will give birth to an educated generation of geoscientists who can better address fundamental Earth problems.
Investigative case-based learning encourages students to develop questions that can be explored further by reasonable investigative approaches. Students then gather data and information for testing their hypotheses. They produce materials which can be used to persuade others of their findings. Students employ a variety of methods and resources, including traditional laboratory and field techniques, software simulations and models, data sets, internet-based tools and information retrieval methods.
Concept Maps are visual representations of linkages/connections between a major concept and other knowledge students have learned. Concept maps are excellent tools to provide instructors with diagnostic pre-assessment prior to beginning a unit and formative assessments during learning activities. Concept Maps also provide immediate visual data to geoscience instructors on student misconceptions and their level of understanding. Angelo and Cross (1993) indicate that Concept Maps develop student abilities in certain critical areas including the ability to draw reasonable inferences from observations, the ability to synthesize and integrate information and ideas, and the ability to learn concepts and theories in the subject area.
The Jigsaw Method
Using this method, students are assigned to investigate different aspects of the same problem or issue. For example, each team might analyze a different but related data set or read an article on different aspects or viewpoints on the same topic. Once each team member thoroughly understands his/her team's aspect of the problem, new groups are formed, with at least one representative from each original team. Each individual then explains her/his team's aspect of the problem to the new group. In this way, every student learns every aspect of the problem. Each group then uses combined information to evaluate a summary issue ([Tewksbury, 1995] ). This method could be used by dividing a class up into groups and assinging them to the different key points on the website.
Open-ended questions allow students to explore scientifically significant questions while focusing on their own interests. Follow this link to explore a topical research questions that are important to understanding the Greater Yellowstone Geoecosystem:
- Is Yellowstone Volcanism Caused by a Deep-Seated Mantle Plume?
- Is there a present volcanic hazard
- What is the compositional diversity in volcanic suites, comparing the Yellowstone and Mt. Mazama calderas?
- Should geothermal energy resources around Yellowstone Park be developed?
- Snowmobiles in Yellowstone National Park: An American Right, or Wrong?
Course Materials related to Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone: A Natural Laboratory is an introductory course for non-majors that emphasizes modern research methods and results, taught by Dr. Cathy Whitlock, Dept. of Earth Sciences, Montana State University. Examples of course activities can be found by linking to
- Course Syllabus (Microsoft Word 64kB Jan7 08)
- Climate Change in Yellowstone National Park exercise (Microsoft Word 44kB Jan7 08)
- Group report exercise on topical research questions about Yellowstone National Park (Microsoft Word 30kB Jan7 08)
- Stream Data and Climate Change Exercise in Yellowstone National Park (Microsoft Word 29kB Jan7 08) with an Excel spreadsheet example of peak discharge data at a single location in Yellowstone National Park (Excel 121kB Jan7 08)