Paper No. 2
Presentation Time: 9:15 AM
DEVELOPING SCIENTIFIC LITERACY IN INTRODUCTORY GEOSCIENCE LAB COURSES: A MODEL FOR INTEGRATED LONGITUDINAL ASSESSMENT
Although science educators at all levels have focused on teaching students scientific literacy for nearly five decades, studies indicate that the average student remains far from scientifically literate. To address this issue at the local level, faculty at Trinity University, in San Antonio, Texas, significantly revised the curriculum of an existing introductory physical geology laboratory course. The course, which satisfies general education requirements at Trinity, was revised to provide students learning opportunities involving research-grade instrumentation in a scientific process context. This effort was spurred by general dissatisfaction with the existing curricular structure of the course as well as a new interdisciplinary, NSF-funded initiative to support the integration of research-grade instrumentation in curriculum and undergraduate research across campus. The physical geology laboratory course revision was based on research that demonstrated the efficacy of learning through active participation, interpretation, iteration, and reflection, especially when knowledge and skills are gained within an explicit scientific process context. In addition to significantly revising laboratory activities, we added new activities within the course framework that involved the use of new, NSF-funded research-grade instruments. Our assessment tools to measure student learning included: in-class observations, student-instructor discussions, pre- and post-learning questionnaires, pre-lab quizzes, course activities completed during class time, modified post-activity reflection questions, practical examinations, a final examination, and qualitative analysis of faculty, staff, and administrator perspectives. Our assessment results suggest that students improved their understanding of the scientific process as it works in today’s world, gained a better understanding of geological research methods, and improved their overall understanding of how qualitative and quantitative elemental analyses provide data that permit scientists to answer questions related to real-world problems. We believe that this example of a significant course re-design provides a model that can be transferred to other geosciences departments as well as to other scientific disciplines.