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

Paper No. 305-5
Presentation Time: 10:00 AM


NAGY, Elizabeth A., Pasadena City College, 1570 E. Colorado Blvd, Natural Sciences Division, Pasadena, CA 91106-2003

Repeated exposure to new course material helps students develop deeper understandings and insights about unfamiliar topics. It provides the opportunity to comprehend details that might have been missed the first time around and helps students remember key concepts. Ideally students who arrive to a lecture covering new material have already read the textbook, highlighting key points and noting items that are unclear or confusing. In this way the lecture, and the availability of the instructor for clarifications and assistance, would be their second exposure to a new subject. The reality is that many students arrive to class with no idea of the day’s topics and passively listen to “whatever the instructor is talking about today”. If homework questions are assigned after the lecture to reinforce key concepts, this is where many students finally engage in the learning process. However, by simply requiring students to complete homework questions before the corresponding lecture, students arrive to class already familiar with new material and ready with questions. In my introductory geoscience courses I require on-line, pre-lecture homework, which constitutes 15% of the students’ course grade. To keep this self-regulated learning relatively low stress, students can spend unlimited time on the assignments (prior to the due dates), return later to partially completed homework, request no-penalty hints (bonus points for not using hints), and make multiple attempts for partial credit. They also know immediately if they have answered the questions correctly. This practice has proven to be valuable on many levels. As a class we can discuss homework items that were particularly confusing on the same day as the main lecture, and class discussions tend to be richer. By using an on-line program managed by the textbook publisher, I can easily set-up and edit the question lists and due dates, view class results statistically, and embed tutorials. Students can review the homework at any time, such as before quizzes and tests. Once in place there is little time commitment for instructors, except for the valuable practice of hand grading short-answer and essay questions. Students report that this strategy is beneficial, making lectures and key lesson topics easier to understand compared to their experiences in traditional lecture courses.