2002 Denver Annual Meeting (October 27-30, 2002)

Paper No. 1
Presentation Time: 8:00 AM


PERKINS, Dexter, Department of Geology and Geological Engineering, Univ of North Dakota, PO Box 8358, Grand Forks, ND 58202, dexter_perkins@und.edu

In recent years, geoscience educators have focused more and more on student oriented teaching. Active learning, in many different forms, has been shown to be more effective than learning from the more traditional lecture approach. Initial excursions into the active learning arena occurred in small classes but, with more experience, many instructors have found they can incorporate more active learning in large introductory classes as well. The obvious results are greater student learning and satisfaction, and also (unfortunately) more work for the instructors. A secondary result is that instructors are reevaluating their teaching goals.

As teaching strategies and goals evolve, it has become apparent that new techniques must be found for evaluating student performance. If teaching is going to be flexible and open ended, so should grading. To this end, we have implemented a flexible grading system in our Introduction to Environmental Issues Class. Students are expected to do a core group of assignments, but are given considerable flexibility in select additional things they wish to do. By this scheme, students who do a minimal amount of work, but do it well, receive high grades. Students who do more work, but perform at a lower level, may receive equally high grades. Keeping track of students and being consistent in making evaluations is complicated in a large class and is accomplished using a web hosted database.

Surveys of students after two years reveal the following about our system of flexible grading: (1) students believe flexible grading is fairer than traditional grading; (2) students say they work much harder than in traditional courses; (3) there is a high degree of student satisfaction regarding final grades. These student opinions are supported by instructorsÂ’ observations. Instructors also report that student thinking and learning seem improved, but that flexible grading takes more time than traditional grading.