Paper No. 3
Presentation Time: 8:40 AM
UNDERSTANDING EARTH SYSTEM PROCESSES THROUGH PROBLEM-BASED LEARNING: EXAMPLES FROM UNDERGRADUATE COURSES IN OCEANOGRAPHY, NATURAL HAZARDS AND EARTH HISTORY
Problem-based learning (PBL) is a well-established approach to teaching and learning that has great potential to advance student's understanding of complex earth-system processes. We have used PBL primarily with on-line courses in Earth System education; however, recently we have begun to successfully incorporate PBL into our traditional face-to-face courses in Oceanography, Natural Hazards and Earth History. In PBL, students are presented with an Earth System event--an earthquake, a mass extinction, a glacial episode--and are asked to analyze the factors leading to the event or to unravel the Earth System responses to the event. Students list their own preconceptions or "private theories" about the event and share those theories with a group of class colleagues. Students then work collectively in small groups to define (and redefine) a series of essential questions about the event and to develop a problem statement that serves as the focus for a collective research effort. Students are required to carry out the investigation and to present the results of their research to their class colleagues. Finally, students return to their original theories to reflect upon and write down what they have learned.
We have found that PBL challenges students to address their own misconceptions about Earth System processes and to take ownership of course content in a way that is seldom achieved in lecture-dominated class-room settings. Our presentation will highlight our use of PBL in our courses and it will recommend ways in which PBL can be incorporated in other geoscience learning experiences.