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

Paper No. 2
Presentation Time: 8:15 AM


MATTY, David J., Department of Geology, Central Michigan Univ, 314 Brooks Hall, Mount Pleasant, MI 48859, matty1dj@cmich.edu

Introducing undergraduate students to geologic research traditionally takes place through interactions between faculty mentors and their individual students via independent studies or senior theses. However, class-based projects can also be effective ways of introducing students to the methodology of original research - e.g., identifying, evaluating and designing a project, collecting and analyzing data, and interpreting and disseminating results - if they are given appropriate guidance by the instructor.

Class-based research projects may take several forms, but a key decision in designing such an experience will be whether to ask students to investigate a single problem – or aspects of a single problem – or to give them more “ownership” and allow them to identify and develop their own projects. In all cases, a related decision will be whether to ask students to work as a team, in small groups, or individually. In terms of instructional expectations, these design choices will be critical, however, additional design aspects that should be considered involve the amount of in-class and out-of-class time available to supervise a large number of students in what may be their first research experience.

It is also essential to consider how the class project fits into one's institutional reward structure. Projects can be designed to provide results that are compatible with a variety of professional expectations, depending on the mission and standards of one's institution. For instance, it may be most important to design the class project simply to maximize the educational experience of the students. In other cases, it may be best to maximize the dissemination of results (e.g., student publications or presentations), or to focus on generating data that can be incorporated into a larger project being studied by the instructor and that will ultimately be included in a publication.

Whatever the choices, class-based research projects are labor intensive and require considerable effort by faculty in terms of planning and supervision. However, the rewards for students and faculty alike can be substantial if the experience is appropriately designed within the framework of individual and institutional expectations.