2015 GSA Annual Meeting in Baltimore, Maryland, USA (1-4 November 2015)

Paper No. 89-11
Presentation Time: 11:00 AM


DMOCHOWSKI, Jane Ellen, Earth and Environmental Science, University of Pennsylvania, 240 S. 33rd St, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6316 and COWARD, Elizabeth, Earth and Environmental Science, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, janeed@sas.upenn.edu

As part of the University of Pennsylvania’s Structured Active In-class Learning (SAIL) initiative, we have revised Environmental Case Studies (a 20 person intermediate-level course) and Introductory Oceanography (a 100-person introductory course). In these courses students are guided to acquire the basics of the material at home, and collaborative in-class activities are designed to help students reach higher-order learning objectives. In the first course, students are given a “case study” to read before class, with a pre-class assignment. Class time is focused on an activity (e.g., debate, “task force” groups, role playing, etc.), conducted in smaller groups that concludes with a full-class activity. A similar strategy is implemented in Introductory Oceanography, but the pre-class work is part of an online module which includes videos, guided reading and a post-module quiz. In-class activities are completed in groups of three and focus on data analysis. In implementing tools such as “case studies” and at-home video modules; group work; incorporation of current research; pre- and post-lecture exercises; reflective, qualitative writing assignments; end-of-term individual case studies; and peer review; the aim is to increase science literacy, student interest and critical thinking skills, and correct common scientific misconceptions. These courses are the product of several years of refinement via a SAIL year-long University faculty seminar, the National Association of Geoscience Teachers Introductory Course Workshop at the 2014 American Geophysical Union conference, and review conducted by the University’s Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL). While implementing active-learning techniques with college underclassmen is not without complications, we argue that a SAIL class that flexibly and creatively accounts for class size and science level improves the learning experience and the acquired knowledge, particularly as it relates to science literacy and increased interest in earth and environmental science. Results from pre- and post- student surveys, course reviews and student performance indexes illustrate this objective. In addition to providing a summary of this assessment, this presentation will provide examples of student exercises and assessment results.