Articles about Teaching Earth History


  • Measuring student understanding of geological time. Dodick and Orion, 2003a This paper includes a copy and an assessment of the GeoTAT, a test of students' aptitude to understand geologic time. It also deals with the evolution of the understanding of events and time. (citation and description)
  • Geology as an historical science: Its perception within science and the education system. Dodick and Orion, 2003b This article discusses the history of the relationship between geology and physics and the need for modern geology to respect itself as an interpretive science. (citation and description)
  • Geological reasoning: Geology as an interpretive and historical science. Frodeman, 1995 Geology is not simply a derivative of physics and chemistry. It is an interpretive and an historical science. (citation and description)
  • What is Deep Time and why should anyone care?. Zen, 2001 A field approach invites student inquiry into Deep Time. Students work out the relationships of features within and between sites and determine the overall chronology for the whole landscape. (citation and description)

Information on Courses

  • A new interactive class and lab for undergraduate non-geology majors on Earth, climate, and life through time. Bralower et al., 1998 The Earth history class described here develops three topics: the development of the solid Earth, changes in the atmosphere and ocean, and evolution. (citation and description)
  • A new Earth history for undergraduates. Cloud, 1988 Cloud (1988) suggests writing an introductory course (non-majors welcome) around the first three or four billion years of Earth history. (citation and description)
  • Regional geology as a unifying theme and a springboard to Deep Time. Miller, 2001 Miller has his students work out how long it would take to deposit various formations, given modern deposition rates, then asks why rocks of a given age are thicker in one area than at another. (citation and description)
  • The evolution of an undergraduate service course: How to cope with success in an age of dinosaurs class. Montgomery, 2003 The Age of Dinosaurs class at University of Texas, Dallas, has grown from 20 to 200 students. The faculty have responded by adapting active-learning strategies to large classes. (citation and description)
  • Collaborative learning in an upper-division university geobiology course. Savarese, 1988 The paleontology course described in this article has fully half of the lecture time devoted to group projects: reviewing original literature, debating issues, working with data, and solving problems. (citation and description)

Earth History Exercises

Several of these focus on teaching students the magnitude of geologic time.

  • Experimenting with Ice-Age Cycles in a Spreadsheet. Berger, 1997 This exercise has students create a global sea level model. Changes in insolation and sea level over the past several hundred thousands of years explain the ice age cycles of the Quaternary. (citation and description)
  • Combining a historical geology project with a campus student organization's fundraising efforts. Guertin and Nguyen, 2003 This project has students model the geologic timescale using distance as a metaphor for time. Students give presentions spaced at distances which represent how far apart in time the events occurred. (Full Text Online)
  • Earth history on the gridiron. LoDuca and Ojala, 1998 This article details the use of a football field as a metaphor for geologic time and includes several diagrams emphasizing different kinds of Earth history events. (citation and description)
  • The Use of Critical Thinking Skills for Teaching Evolution in an Introductory Historical Geology Course. Rankey, 2003 In this exercise, students rate themselves on an evolutionist-creationist continuum and write a paper incorporating at least three books or articles summarizing the view that opposed theirs. (citation and description)
  • An Interactive Game Approach to Learning in Historical Geology and Paleontology. Reuss and Gardulski, 2001 This article describes a series of games to help students identify and answer questions about fossils. The game grows more complex over time as the instructors add rules and phyla to identify. (citation and description)
  • Debating whether Dinosaurs Should be Cloned from Ancient DNA to Promote Cooperative Learning in an Introductory Evolution Course. Soja and Huerta, 2001 This role-playing exercise casts students as scientific specialists, assigned to a group either supporting or opposing the cloning of dinosaurs. Each group researches and presents its argument. (citation and description)
  • Learning Geologic Time in the Field. Thomas, 2001 This inquiry-based project has each student go out and collect 3 rocks (1 igneous, 1 metamorphic, and 1 sedimentary) from a given area and to determine how they fit into that area's geologic history. (citation and description)