Paper No. 2
Presentation Time: 1:55 PM


MOSS, Elizabeth, Dept. of Geological & Atmospheric Sciences, Iowa State University, 253 Science I, Ames, IA 50011 and CERVATO, Cinzia, Dept. of Geological and Atmospheric Sciences, Iowa State University, 253 Science I, Ames, IA 50011,

In the spring semester of 2011, we began the process of reforming the curriculum of our introductory Geology Lab course to include a six-week, field-based, student-driven research module. We also changed the traditional lab lessons based on a lab manual to lessons centered around cooperative learning strategies. Using student feedback we have continued to make modifications to the research module and lab lessons. This fall will be the fourth implementation of the new curriculum, with only minor changes from the previous semester.

The research module focuses on groundwater and surface water of the local area. While we were developing the research module, we received institutional funding to install eight wells and a stream gauge near campus. Four of these wells are equipped with remote monitoring equipment. Students also have access to water-level tapes, pocket colorimeters, reagents allowing them to measure phosphorus, nitrate and chloride concentrations, and equipment to measure temperature, pH, and conductivity. Student groups create their research question and hypothesis, plan how they will collect data, collect data on their own time, and synthesize their information in a conference-style research poster at the end of the semester. Students present their posters to their peers as well as in an evening poster symposium with expert faculty judges.

Results from a 15-question subset of the GCI suggest that students in our class are making similar to slightly higher gains than students in a comparable traditional lab offered to Engineering students. We have also administered surveys measuring nature of science understanding and self-efficacy and have found localized changes in both areas.

We will present our data on student learning and share our insight into how to overcome obstacles regarding TA preparation, student buy-in, and procuring funding for research equipment, as well as our recommendations on how to implement a research module into a lab course.

  • Moss_GSA 2012.pptx (1.5 MB)