Introduction to Evolution (Historical Geology)

Amber Kumpf, Muskegon Community College
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Initial Publication Date: April 9, 2020 | Reviewed: December 10, 2020


This is a guided question note sheet with interactive elements linked within for an online course in Earth History or Historical Geology. NOVA evolution lab is one component, along with other introductory videos and links to useful websites on common misconceptions about evolution and others, compiled in one place with questions for students to answer to confirm understanding of main ideas.

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I used this in my (suddenly) online Earth History course (Historical Geology) which I teach at the introductory level (no prerequisite required), mostly non-majors, at a community college.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

Make discussion board posts. Take screenshots/save as pdf. Upload assignments to learning management system.

How the activity is situated in the course

This was an assignment for one week in the online course.

For context:
I teach Earth History in four modules. This opening intro to evolution is the start of the fourth module, life through time. Students in my course have already learned: Module #1: Geologic time, dating. Module #2: Rock cycle, Plate tectonics, Orogenies through time. Module #3: Sed/Strat, Cratonic sequences, Sea level change through time. & now Module #4: Evolution, Mass Extinctions, Fossilization/Preservation, Precambrian life, Life through time. The assessments for Module #1 & #3 are a test. The assessments for Module #2 & #4 are a research papers & presentations. For Module #2 the focus is orogenies, for Module #4 famous fossil sites (lagerstatten). It isn't the focus of this activity but two of the guided questions refer to the module #4 project they are working on at the same time/building up a knowledge base for - so I have also included the project assignment sheet as a reference, too. I emphasize the arc of time in introductory lecture materials, but they also present their projects chronologically, so that the arc of Earth History is emphasized and reviewed multiple times.


Content/concepts goals for this activity

Mechanisms of evolution, common misconceptions about evolution, origins of life, mutations, natural selection, genetic drift, gene flow, rates of evolutionary change, gradualism, punctuated equilibrium, divergent evolution, convergent evolution, parallel evolution, homologous structures, analogous structures, vestigial structures, fossil first order of appearance, phylogenetic trees, DNA sequences, physiology

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

synthesis of ideas, analysis of data

Other skills goals for this activity

Description and Teaching Materials

This guided questions note sheet was intended to help guide students through freely available websites and videos and interactive lab activities and to aid in their retention of relevant content related to the topic of evolution - in a basic introductory level treatment appropriate for a course in Earth History or Historical Geology. Two documents are provided here: the guided questions note sheet (with links to external resources within) and a set of screenshot directions to guide students through the use of NOVA's evolution lab.
Guided Questions Note Sheet (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 549kB Apr9 20)
NOVA evolution lab directions (PowerPoint 2007 (.pptx) 6.1MB Apr9 20)
Fossil Site Project (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 20kB Apr9 20)

Teaching Notes and Tips

This is the first time I've tried this activity - so I'm not sure where students will have issues.

If you use "as is" the instructor should make two discussion board forums ("Evolution Misconceptions" and "Species Relationships") and three assignment upload links in your learning management system (1. 'lab report' quiz answers, 2. screen shot of completed missions, 3. answers to the guided questions). The directions here say blackboard - but I've included the editable versions, so you can change it to suit your specific needs.


To assess you will have to review two discussion board posts and check for understanding in the answers they submit to the guided questions.