SCIENTIFIC LITERACY IN PHYSICAL GEOLOGY CURRICULUM
The first step was to identify the six basic scientific skills necessary to master critical data analysis: spatial visualization, temporal visualization, analysis of tables and graphs, qualitative analysis, quantitative analysis, and map interpretation.
During spring of 2004 prior to curriculum modification, Physical Geology students took pre- and post-course surveys (inspired by Classroom Assessment Techniques by Angelo and Cross, 1993) to assess their grasp of the basic literacies and to gauge their confidence in and exposure to each literacy. The pre-course survey revealed that students past experience and familiarity with the literacies were not as widespread as the instructors had anticipated, and that students perception of their skill level seldom corresponded to their ability. The post-course survey showed an increased level of confidence and improvement in some skills. Both surveys indicated that students are most interested in practice and assistance with quantitative skills.
Because literacies are best taught in the laboratory, the in-house lab manual is being redesigned to be both literacy- and content-based. Early labs will include simple exercises addressing literacies in the context of geologic topics, and following labs will involve increasingly complex exercises over the same skills. The pre- and post-surveys will be administered in the revised course to determine the effect of the new focus on scientific literacy.