Northeastern Section - 40th Annual Meeting (March 14–16, 2005)

Paper No. 3
Presentation Time: 1:40 PM


GLUMAC, Bosiljka, Department of Geology, Smith College, Northampton, MA 01063,

After attending the NAGT workshops on innovative and effective teaching and course design in the geosciences I restructured a traditional lecture-laboratory undergraduate Sedimentology and Stratigraphy course into a field-oriented and project-based course that emphasizes active learning and engagement of students. The course design approach, which involves defining the course goals first and then planning activities around these goals, was not difficult to implement because the laboratory exercises in the traditional course were already carefully designed to meet specific objectives. In the restructured course these objectives are clearly defined and communicated, and the entire course is built around modified lab exercises. The activities and assignments are designed to help students achieve the goals of being able to: 1) go to an unfamiliar outcrop and know what questions to ask and what data to collect; 2) interpret depositional settings based on rock types and sedimentary structures; 3) analyze successions of sedimentary rocks in the field and laboratory to interpret the geologic history of an area; and 4) draw connections between sedimentology and other scientific disciplines and everyday life. Most of the projects that form the course framework are field-based: there are five trips locally to a Mesozoic rift basin in Massachusetts, and weekend trips to the Massachusetts coast and to outcrops of Paleozoic strata in eastern New York. In these field projects, for example, the students: 1) relate processes and a tectonic setting of a modern barrier island complex to their sedimentary products; and 2) reconstruct the tectono-sedimentary history of eastern North America through analyzing siliciclastic and carbonate rock successions. The projects have several parts, such as trip preparation, field trip activities, follow-up (in-class activities; thin-section petrography), and a short final write-up. Most of the class time is used for teamwork on the projects. The students also work on additional activities to gain the content knowledge needed to complete the assignments. Similar project-based courses can be designed and offered elsewhere. Thoughtfully planned experiments or examination of suites of samples or sets of data can be conducted in the absence of opportunities for extensive fieldwork.