Southeastern Section–55th Annual Meeting (23–24 March 2006)

Paper No. 7
Presentation Time: 10:20 AM


BIER, Sara E., Geology, Washington and Lee University, Lexington, VA 24450,

Teaching a class for the first time can be challenging. Fortunately, the opportunity to bring research to the undergraduate classroom made the fall 2005 Washington and Lee geophysics class a success. The geophysics class conducted a geophysical survey on the South River floodplain near a historic iron furnace and a mill near Buena Vista, Virginia.

The students did a reconnaissance investigation of the study site, designed and conducted surveys utilizing both electrical resistivity and seismic refraction equipment, processed the data using techniques learned in the classroom, and made interpretations based on their results. The results from the electrical resistivity and seismic refraction data revealed information about both the subsurface geology as well as archeological features associated with the nearby iron furnace and the mill. They synthesized their background research, field methods, data processing, interpretation and results into a poster presentation.

Students had a positive response to the active-learning approach of this course. Feedback from the students indicated that the student-guided research in this undergraduate course resulted in greater interest in the subject area, higher levels of motivation, and better academic performance. Constructing this course around a research project was a great way to overcome the challenge of teaching a course for the first time.