2005 Salt Lake City Annual Meeting (October 16–19, 2005)

Paper No. 3
Presentation Time: 1:30 PM-5:30 PM


SCHERER, Hannah H. and METCALF, James R., Geological and Environmental Sciences, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305-2115, hscherer@pangea.stanford.edu

Geology is unique among the natural sciences in its emphasis on outdoor, field based learning experiences. Many undergraduate programs involve significant field projects, courses, and trips. As such, learning how to teach in the field is essential to the professional development of Graduate Teaching Assistants, especially those interested in pursuing academic careers. To address this need, we developed “Teaching in the Field,” a new course, to give graduate students practical experience in all aspects of planning and leading effective field trips. The course focused primarily on experiential learning, and was divided into two parts. The first part centered on the discussion and evaluation of field trips the class participated in, lead by various faculty in the department. These trips allowed the course participants to observe various teaching in the field styles. Evaluation of both the positive and negative aspects of the field trips helped the course participants develop guidelines and principles necessary for the second past of the course. During the second (and more involved) part of the course, students designed, developed, and led an extended field trip open to undergraduate majors in the department. The inaugural trip, held in June of 2005, highlighted the geology of northern California. Each student in the class planned one day of the excursion. Before the trip, each student wrote a chapter of the field guide that included comprehensive background information (relevant articles, annotated bibliographies, maps, and diagrams), directions to and from the different stops, contact with local experts, and logistics (camping spots en route, services and facilities nearby, etc.). On each day of the field trip, the student in charge was responsible for all aspects of teaching on the outcrop, including using props and diagrams, giving lectures, pointing out salient features, and tying the stops together into a comprehensive story. To further prepare students for the responsibilities of leading field trips, “Teaching in the Field” also included First Aid and CPR certification, and basic vehicle repair. Courses such as “Teaching in the Field” are an effective, inexpensive, and valuable aspect of graduate student professional development that can easily be modified to fit within existing teaching assistant training.