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

Paper No. 1
Presentation Time: 8:00 AM


TEASDALE, Rachel, Geological and Environmental Sciences, California State University Chico, Box 0205, Chico, CA 95929-0205, rteasdale@csuchico.edu

Mineralogy is generally the first course beyond introductory courses taken by students in geology majors. Traditional Mineralogy curriculum often includes crystallography with wooden blocks, optical mineralogy, and hand sample identification, all interspersed with memorization of mineral formulas. The disparity between big concepts that were attractive to students in introductory courses and the seemingly unrelated details of Mineralogy can be frustrating to students who often do not have the perspective to connect course material with larger scale ideas. Mineralogy at CSU Chico was redesigned for Fall 2005 in an attempt to introduce traditional Mineralogy concepts in the context of broad geologic processes. The newly designed course uses a project-based approach dominated by case-studies that professional earth scientists encounter. Projects are investigated as basic skills are introduced in the early part of the semester, and more advanced concepts are used later in the term. Cumulative skills building and integration of progressively complex analytical tools emphasizes the multi-disciplinary approach used by professional geologists. By focusing on projects, students learn mineralogy, become engaged in their major, and get early exposure to a variety of potential professions in their field. This works to build on their initial enthusiasm about geology and helps them direct their coursework within the major. Material from prerequisite coursework (e.g. chemistry) is also utilized, making the science core curriculum more meaningful early on in the major. Student learning is measured through group and individual projects, weekly exercises, and periodic exams, each of which have produced high quality results that indicates students have learned basic mineralogy as well as the relevance and uses of mineralogy in geologic problems. Feedback is generally positive but has yielded important constructive criticism ranging from workload to the need for even more in depth context within individual projects. Assessment of the redesign is an on-going process, and includes evaluations of individual projects by current students, comparative reviews by students who took the course before it was redesigned, and reviews by graduate TA's who took a Mineralogy course at a different institution.