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

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


HUBENY, J. Bradford, Graduate School of Oceanography, Univ of Rhode Island, Narragansett Bay Campus, South Ferry Road, Narragansett, RI 02882, bhubeny@gso.uri.edu

Making an introductory class more exciting for both you and your students can be a serious challenge, especially if you teach non-traditional classes that meet for up to 3 ¾ hours at a time. An effective way of inviting students into the subject matter is to provide hands-on activities that promote group collaboration and problem-solving skills. If organized properly, these activities can also serve to break up long periods of class time, and keep the students' attention throughout the period. In my introductory geological oceanography course I structured the class with weekly one-hour long activities that were relevant to the week's topics, and that broke the class period into two one-hour lectures separated by the activity. Each activity was designed as an inquiry-based exercise that encouraged the students to step out of the box and solve a scientific question with knowledge that they had learned in lecture. An example started with me presenting a clear plastic tube filled with water. In the water were multiple objects that were all floating at one of three well-defined depths (surface and two intermediate depths). After a lecture on density of water masses, I challenged the groups of students to hypothesize on why the objects were floating where they were. All groups spent the hour figuring out different ways to solve the problem, and all eventually proved that there were three different water masses and that the objects' locations were defined by their densities. Overall, the students felt that the activities made the class more interesting and increased their understanding of the material. This course design is ideal for non-traditional classes like the one that I have discussed. The system can also work well for a traditional schedule if the instructor devotes one of the three weekly classes to an activity. The downside to this, obviously, is that it takes away from class lecture time. Although this limits the quantity of material that can be covered in a given semester, I argue that the quality of learning will greatly improve. This is primarily due to the fact that you will cater to more learning styles than a traditional lecture format can accommodate. In addition, you will encourage the students to use what they have learned, to develop problem-solving skills, and to have fun in the process.