Initial Publication Date: February 17, 2009

Teaching the Process of Science:

Geologic Disasters and the Environment

this page written by Cathy Manduca, based on an course description written by Kaatje Kraft, Mesa Community College

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.

Geologic Disasters & the Environment is a description of this course.

Integrating the Process of Science into the Course

Design Philosophy

Describe how teaching about the process of science is integrated into the design of this course. This section should address the scale of the course as a whole and explain why this approach is chosen.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

In this section, describe the key activities that you use to implement the design philosophy. Provide sufficient detail that your ideas could be implemented by a collegue or transferred to another topical or course context. It is particularly helpful to make explicit the critical aspects of these activities for teaching the process of science--what makes this activity work?Each section of the class begins with a study of the earth processes that underpin the risk. We discuss explicitly 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.

Assessing Understanding of the Process of Science

Describe how student understanding of the process of science is or could be assessed in this course. Be as specific as possible in order to motivate the reader to incorporate assessment into their teaching.To assess understanding of the process of science during the course, we monitor class discussions for misconceptions. These are addressed in class.

Understanding the Process of Science is 40% of the final grade. This portion of the grade is calculated from
  1. Questions from the Process of Science assessment are administered as part of the final exam.
  2. Notes to the City Council are graded for understanding of process of science using this a rubric.

Additional Resources

More about this course, its goals, context, activities and assessment

This course has supplemental information submitted as part of the InTeGrate Teaching the Methods of Geoscience workshop in June 2012.