2004 Denver Annual Meeting (November 7–10, 2004)

Paper No. 40
Presentation Time: 6:30 PM-8:30 PM


KNAPP, Elizabeth P.1, CONNORS, Christopher D.2, GREER, Lisa3, HARBOR, David J.1, SCHWAB, Frederick L.1 and SPENCER, Edgar W.1, (1)Department of Geology, Washington and Lee Univ, Lexington, VA 24450, (2)Department of Geology, Washington and Lee University, Lexington, VA 24450, (3)Geology, Washington and Lee University, Lexington, VA 24450, knappe@wlu.edu

Traditionally at Washington and Lee University teaching in the field has been the core of our geology curriculum. We emphasize field work at all levels of our instruction from the field-based introductory courses to our senior theses. We are fortunate to be located in a geologically diverse location (in the Valley and Ridge of Virginia and within minutes of the Blue Ridge Mountains). The close proximity of geologic variety allows us to spend nearly every class or laboratory period outside. Learning in a hands-on field setting is the best way to reinforce topics learned in the classroom and to demonstrate the interrelationships of the science.

We view fieldwork, however, as just the beginning of geoscience education. A crucial aspect of field geology is making observations and synthesizing the data collected. It is equally important for students to have well-developed skills in field methods, in analytical techniques, in computation and modeling, and in synthesis and presentation. To emphasize all of these aspects, our coursework is largely focused on emulating the process of research. We fold parts of our own local research into the classroom and have the students complete projects that begin with field data collection and follow through the analysis and computational phases. We also work heavily with students in our summer research and believe this is one of our most valuable teaching tools.

Because we have had such a strong field emphasis, we are striving to strike a balance in our curriculum. We use a skills matrix and a yearly departmental programmatic review to ensure that we are providing the best geologic preparation for our students. While our educational philosophies in the department are similar, our approaches to teaching differ and our courses emphasize separate skills. We will present examples of integrated exercises in our field courses (including introductory geology, sedimentology, geochemistry, geomorphology, structural geology and geophysics). We will also discuss our evaluation methods, what has worked well, and the challenges we still face in this approach.