Southeastern Section - 57th Annual Meeting (10–11 April 2008)

Paper No. 5
Presentation Time: 9:50 AM


DUKES, Lorri Dee, Department of Geosciences, University of West Georgia, Carrollton, GA 30118 and BARTLEY, Julie K., Geology Department, Gustavus Adolphus College, 800 W. College Ave, St. Peter, MN 56082,

The Fossil Identification Program (FIP) is an interactive, browser-based program designed to assist the entry level historical geology student in learning the techniques necessary to identify fossils. This program presents paleontology to novice student in a manner that is understandable and that will create familiarity with an unfamiliar subject. Beginning students must see many fossils and learn their fundamental distinguishing features to begin developing their own mental database. The Fossil Identification Program (FIP) was created to familiarize students with some of the more challenging fossils in the historical geology lab. It is a user-friendly, computerized teaching tool designed to teach students how to identify fossils using a step-by-step process and to introduce them to the paleontological classification of fossils, thus helping them develop fossil identification skills and acquire a mental database of relevant morphological features. Three fossil separations are the focus of this interactive database, which guides the students through a series of questions that will lead them to a positive identification. The database was developed and tested over three semesters. Both student confidence and student competence in fossil identification were evaluated. The overall conclusion is that the students who used the program were more confident in and more comfortable with fossil identification. Student competence, however, was not improved by implementation of this tool. This conclusion indicates that proficiency is achieved through practice and requires that students spend time struggling with unfamiliar material. Further follow-up and evaluation of competence is necessary in order to ensure that students use this program as a practice tool. Our project demonstrated the importance of taking students to a higher level of competence in identifying fossils. Subsequent teaching sets of more challenging fossils, representing the same six groups, have been assembled to achieve this. Overall, our results show that FIP is successful in introducing the novice student to the skills necessary in fossil identification and underscore the importance of practice in developing fundamental paleontologic skills.