North-Central Section - 42nd Annual Meeting (24–25 April 2008)

Paper No. 3
Presentation Time: 8:40 AM


BROWN, Lewis M.1, KELSO, Paul R.1, CHURCHILL, Kim M.1, MINTZES, Joel J.2 and HONGYAN, Wang3, (1)Geology and Physics, Lake Superior State University, 650 W. Easterday Ave, Sault Ste. Marie, MI 49783, (2)Biology, Univ of North Carolina - Wilmington, Wilmington, NC 28403, (3)Geology, Kunming University of Science and Technology, Kunming, China,

We developed a protocol for program assessment as part of Lake Superior State University Geology Department's recently completed, NSF sponsored, undergraduate curricular revision. Curriculum development was facilitated in part by a national survey of geoscience departments that was coordinated by the American Geological Institute. The assessment plan utilizes five techniques including 1) multiple cumulative concept analysis mapping exercises, 2) class presentation evaluations, 3) interviews, 4) problem solving activities, and 5) the Geological Concept Inventory. Concept analysis mapping proved to be of most value in our introductory year-long integrated physical and historical course. Students produced an initial concept map during the first month of the class in response to the concept “Geology,” which they then modified and expanded at the end of both the first and second semesters. They demonstrated a statistically significant increase (F=0.0001) in all aspects of concept mapping including relationships between concepts, number of concepts, concept branching, hierarchy development, and crosslinking. We advocate the use of concept maps both as a teaching tool and as an assessment instrument. Interviewing, while providing insights into student thinking processes, proved to be too time consuming for its value. We developed problem solving activities to evaluate critical thinking in our upper division courses. Evaluated qualitatively, student class presentations and problem solving performance improved dramatically over four years. The Geological Concept Inventory was implemented during the final year of the curricular revision and has proved useful in measuring knowledge acquisition. We used this instrument in an introductory geology course in China and it may be useful in comparing student concept acquisition internationally.