“INVENTION” ACTIVITIES IN AN INTRODUCTORY LAB: MINERALS, ROCKS, BIODIVERSITY, AND EARTHQUAKES
We developed four activities for a university-level introductory earth science lab course that have the features of invention activities. In two of these, students create classification schemes for (1) minerals and (2) rocks, based on prior knowledge and observations of contrasting hand samples. In the other two, students invent math to (1) quantify biodiversity and (2) estimate distances based on paired arrival times, an analog for estimating distances to earthquake epicenters. Invention activities often have an overlying cover story that differs from the ultimate intended application. Our earthquakes (arrival times) activity fits this description, but the other three directly use materials (e.g. minerals and rocks) or terms (e.g. biodiversity) that relate to the learning topic. Pre-post assessments of learning show the strongest learning gains for the two activities with the least direct instruction and most carefully constructed contrasting cases: minerals, and biodiversity. For these two activities respectively, 74% and 69% of students who missed the relevant assessment question on the start-of-term pre-test, answered correctly on the end-of-term post-test. These learning gains are stronger than gains for the rocks activity, at about 40%. The earthquakes activity has not yet been assessed. All these activities use simple materials and are easy to set up and facilitate.
Schwartz, D. L., and T. Martin, 2004. Inventing to Prepare for Future Learning: The Hidden Efficiency of Encouraging Original Student Production in Statistics Instruction. Cognition and Instruction, 22(2), 129-184.