2006 Philadelphia Annual Meeting (22–25 October 2006)

Paper No. 5
Presentation Time: 2:35 PM


BYKERK-KAUFFMAN, Ann, Geological and Environmental Sciences, California State Univ, Chico, 400 W. 1st St, Chico, CA 95929-0205, abykerk-kauffman@csuchico.edu

In 1995, with the help of NSF grant #9455371, I began to redesign "Concepts in Earth and Space Sciences," a required course for K-8 multiple-subject teaching credential candidates and for students pursuing a K-12 single-subject teaching credential in biology. To date, over 2500 students have completed the redesigned course.

Lectures (one 50-minute session/week) feature electronic “clickers,” used to answer conceptual questions posed during class. Labs (two 2-hour sessions/week) consist of hands-on collaborative activities that are designed to confront common student misconceptions, guide students toward the discovery and construction of fundamental concepts in geology, astronomy and meteorology; and provide examples of a pedagogical approach that is particularly effective for children. Labs culminate in student presentations of their results. Students complete weekly homework assignments on the textbook readings and conduct a semester-long project in which they observe the moon, use their observations (and some given data) to draw specific conclusions, and design and facilitate a discovery-based lesson that teaches those conclusions to their peers. Because of the “less is more” approach of the course, students emerge with a deep long-lasting understanding of a small but important set of concepts.

Initially, student resistance to the new teaching methods (and larger work load) was emotional, vocal and occasionally nasty. Even so, from the outset, pre- and post-course tests showed that students learned more in the redesigned course than they had in the well-taught highly organized but traditional old course. Gradually, as the once-revolutionary experimental course improved (and became the norm), students became increasingly appreciative. Now, as students progress through the course, they often express gratitude for finally grasping “things that, really, everyone should know.” They often find themselves teaching their relatives and friends about concepts learned in the course. In the Education Department's science methods course, many alumni of the earth science course praise its quality and describe it as their first and often only positive learning experience in science. Word has spread among the students; over the past 10 years, enrollment in the earth science course has doubled.

Detailed course materials are available at www.csuchico.edu/~abykerkk/.