2006 Philadelphia Annual Meeting (22–25 October 2006)

Paper No. 11
Presentation Time: 4:15 PM


HANSON, Andrew D., Department of Geoscience, University of Nevada Las Vegas, 4505 So. Maryland Parkway, Box 454010, Las Vegas, NV 89154-7003 and DRUSCHKE, Peter A., Department of Geoscience, University of Nevada Las Vegas, 4505 South Maryland Parkway, Box 454010, Las Vegas, NV 89154-4010, andrew.hanson@unlv.edu

During the course of research on basins in the central Basin and Range, my graduate students and I have often thought that it would be very helpful to know where individual quartzite clasts, which are fairly abundant in Tertiary conglomerates, were derived from. However, one quartzite clast often looks just like the next quartzite clast. To deal with this problem we wanted to find a way to quantitatively ascertain their provenance, rather than simply relying upon their visual appearance. At the same time that we pondered how to deal with quartzite provenance, we were brain storming about how to insert more research and writing exercises into our undergraduate sed/strat class. These two issues merged, and as an alternative to the same old lab-lecture format, we instituted a semester long, problem-based, research project in our undergraduate sed/strat class as one part of the class in which we used microprobe geochemistry and cathodoluminescence analyses of quartzites.

A positive outcome of this approach was that students had to turn in different parts of a research paper as the semester progressed and this allowed early and frequent assessment of their writing abilities. Students written submissions were reviewed quickly and they had to revise them until they were adequate. This resulted in a significant improvement in their writing skills as the semester progressed. Their final papers, in which they assembled all of the parts they had been working on throughout the semester, were orders of magnitude better than papers previous students had turned in as a final report. Students became more engaged than previous students and were truly excited about the research project. As instructors we had to accept losing some control, which you normally have if you have students do “canned” lab exercises. In the end, that was a small price to pay considering the overwhelmingly positive outcomes of the research project.