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

Paper No. 1
Presentation Time: 8:00 AM-12:00 PM


STEER, David N.1, MCCONNELL, David1 and OWENS, Katharine2, (1)Department of Geology, The University of Akron, Akron, OH 44325-4101, (2)Curriculum and Instructional Studies, University of Akron, Akron, OH 44325-4205, steer@uakron.edu

Pre- and post-course concept maps were used in large-format, non-majors earth science courses to assess student learning and to identify preconceptions, to test for lingering preconceptions and to document progress at meeting institutional general education goals. Students were provided instructions and an example of a concept map at the beginning and end of the course. During a 20 minute period, students were instructed to complete a concept map pertinent to Earth Science using the terms “time, rocks, water, weather, climate, mountains and continent.” Concept maps were scored using a relational scoring protocol where one point was awarded if a clear relationship was shown between concepts, one point if the relationship was labeled and one point if the direction of the connecting arrow was consistent with the label. Student pre-course scores on this exercise averaged 15 +/- 10 (n= 132) compared to 18 +/- 10 for the post-test (n = 183; p < 0.0005). Analyses of the distributions of students indicated that students with the lowest pre-course scores (0-15) displayed the highest net gain. The majority of the gain was attributed to an increase in student awareness on the post-test that the concept of geologic time was cross related in multiple ways. Faculty-generated concept maps using the same terms scored 44 +/- 15 (n= 7). Beginning students held preconceptions that continents float on water, climate creates water, rocks make water and rocks harden into mountains. These preconceptions were not found on post-course concept maps.

Student concept maps also displayed evidence that students were meeting the general education goal of gaining knowledge of the impact of science on human activities. A majority of student pre-course concept maps indicated there was some relationship between climate, weather, and water, but few adequately identified how these items were connected. Post-course maps illustrated an increased understanding of how these concepts are linked as they tended to incorporate time as a factor and use climate change as a correctly labeled link. These analyses of concept map linkages serve as one example of how instructors can use a single course-embedded exercise to meet instructional, departmental, and institutional assessment requirements goals.