Paper No. 388-1
Presentation Time: 1:15 PM

TEACHING QUANTITATIVE CONCEPTS IN AN INTRODUCTORY HYDROGEOLOGY CLASS


KULKARNI, Tara, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Norwich University, 158 Harmon Dr, Northfield, VT 05663 and DUNKLE, Kallina M., Department of Geosciences, Austin Peay State University, PO Box 4418, Clarksville, TN 37044, dunklek@apsu.edu
Even as quantitative hydrogeology celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2006, instructors assigned to teach introductory hydrogeology courses often lament on the struggle of undergraduate students with the quantitative nature of the course. Students in such courses are often mixed majors or years, making the teaching of the quantitative concepts of the course particularly challenging. Additionally, students lacking proficiency in basic quantitative skills such as dimensional analysis have difficulties with key concepts, including the nuances of Darcy’s law. At an advanced stage in the course, students are often unable to utilize spreadsheet programs to analyze data or apply open source and commercially available models to develop possible solutions to common hydrogeological problems. Furthermore, a weak grasp of fundamental calculations such as those involving porosity (n), hydraulic conductivity (K), and permeability will interfere with student understanding of the more mathematically complex characterizations of groundwater flow and transport.

A variety of strategies can be used to teach such content in a manner that simplifies some of these concepts. During the first week of the course, a review of fundamental quantitative skills not only provides the instructor with information regarding the quantitative skill level of the students, but provides the students with a resource for the semester and the expectation that quantitative skills will be a necessity. This review should include concepts of scientific notation, dimensional analysis, significant figures, averages, and graphing. Then, the use of various methods such as demonstrations, visual aids, role-playing, and repetition throughout the course will continue to reinforce fundamental quantitative skills and increase student understanding of the more mathematically complex material. For example, Darcy’s law can be explored with a jigsaw. First students are assigned to experiment in one of three groups: K, n, or hydraulic gradients. Then teams comprised of one “expert” from each of the three groups develop Darcy’s Law based on the understanding of their individual concepts. Initial assessment indicates the use of several methods to introduce a quantitative concept, such as Darcy’s Law, improves student understanding of that concept.