Paper No. 5
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM-6:30 PM


LYONS, Nathan J., RYKER, Katherine and MCCONNELL, David, Marine, Earth, and Atmospheric Sciences, North Carolina State University, Campus Box 8208, Raleigh, NC 27695,

Monitoring student progress and comprehension in laboratory settings can be limited by instructor availability, time constraints, and the inability to quickly assess and provide feedback during a laboratory exercise. These challenges can be mitigated with pedagogical tools that (1) succinctly present student progress and laboratory results, (2) permit the instructor to modify the exercise for selected student groups, and (3) allow students to compare results with their peers. Web-based tools, such as spreadsheets and models, provide opportunities for such dynamic assessment and exercise modification. These tools also allow students to consider their results and negotiate meaning through group-to-group collaboration, providing opportunities for scientific communication. We have developed a shareable, open source and web-based spreadsheet and model that address these goals.

We compare student performance of a laboratory exercise (1) backed by a web-based spreadsheet and model, and (2) a similar exercise without the web-based component. The exercise provides an introduction to the scientific method and geology presented through plate tectonics. It is presented in the context of a Physical Geology lab; however, the exercise is adaptable for other courses. The control of isostasy upon the configuration of continental crust, oceanic crust, and the mantle is a challenging concept for many students in introductory geology courses. In our exercise, students determine the densities of wood and rock hand samples and input these values to isostasy model in the web-based component. Student groups can compare their results with groups in the same class or other concurrent classes conducting the same exercise. The instructor can monitor progress and model results in real-time, as well as adjust the model for a group to highlight certain concepts or correct a misunderstanding. We will present our exercise, the accompanying summative assessment used to gauge student performance with the two versions of the exercise, and our analysis.

  • lyons_2012_gsa_Realtime assessment of student progress in the lab The isostasy model example_COMPRESSED.pdf (406.7 kB)