2014 GSA Annual Meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia (19–22 October 2014)

Paper No. 304-3
Presentation Time: 9:30 AM


BITTING, Kelsey S., Dept of Geology, University of Kansas, 1475 Jayhawk Blvd, Lindley Hall, Lawrence, KS 66044, ROBERTS, Jennifer A., Dept of Geology, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS 66045 and OLCOTT MARSHALL, Alison, Department of Geology, University of Kansas, Lindley Hall Rm 120, Lawrence, KS 66045

Well-designed and carefully-implemented active learning interventions have been associated with a wide range of benefits to students in introductory college science classes, including extended retention of information, deeper understanding of concepts, improved metacognitive and problem-solving abilities, and a clearer sense of the nature of science as a field of inquiry. However, not all students respond positively to unfamiliar teaching methods, even when the benefits of higher course grades and skills for future job market competitiveness are explicitly articulated: Personality traits such as “openness to experience” and “conscientiousness” are linked to deep learning approaches and strategies, which lead to greater performance when assessments test higher level conceptual understanding. Females have previously been noted to value active learning interventions more highly than male students, first-year university students have been suggested to be more open to active learning than upperclassmen, and all students’ conceptions of learning and instruction are influenced by their previous experiences in courses and their own approaches to studying and learning. We present an analysis of student perceptions of active learning interventions of various types in active lecture (RTOP scores 30-50) and active learning (RTOP scores >50) classes at the introductory level in geology at a large public university in the U.S. Midwest. Beyond gender and year in school, we explore trends related to student major, reasons for choosing to enroll in the course, level of interest in the subject matter, and previous geoscience course experience at the secondary or primary school level. While we assert that the implementation of active learning approaches is always worthwhile, this analysis may be used by others considering redesigning introductory level geoscience courses to calibrate expectations for student buy-in or push-back, level of resources needed to devote to the transformation of a particular course, and amount of course time that should be allotted to explicit emphasis on the benefits of these teaching and learning techniques.