INCORPORATING A RESEARCH MODULE INTO AN INTRODUCTORY GEOLOGY LAB: SUCCESSES AND CHALLENGES
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.