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

Paper No. 89-5
Presentation Time: 9:15 AM


MCCONNELL, David A., Marine, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27695, david_mcconnell@ncsu.edu

The student experience in introductory courses has been identified as a critical tipping point for student persistence in STEM degree programs. Compared to other STEM fields, the student experience in introductory geoscience courses is critically important, not only for retaining existing majors, but also for attracting new students to the discipline. Research in various STEM disciplines over the last few decades has revealed a suite of empirically validated instructional practices that can contribute to improvements in student learning and a reduction in attrition rates. However, research has been less effective in identifying methods for redesigning courses to incorporate these strategies. Part of this challenge is due to the fact that each instructor has to confront their own suite of situational factors (e.g., class size, instructional experience, course content) that often confound the direct adoption of strategies that work in specific settings.

Consequently, the most practical path to pedagogical reform may be to identify some common components of transformation and allow instructors the autonomy to decide how to shape those components to fit their particular learning environment. These components may include some combination of the following: 1) Adding student learning objectives; 2) Assessing learning during class using formative assessment activities; 3) Adoption of engaging teaching activities from existing collections; 4) Developing a consistent course structure that encourages students to adopt effective study strategies (e.g., retrieval practice, distributed practice, practice testing); and, 5) independent student learning outside of the classroom. Independent student learning provides an opportunity to shift traditional lecture material to pre-class assignments and thus free time in class to introduce the pedagogical changes that are most closely linked to improved learning. We will describe a flipped class model that incorporates these components and suggest how to begin a process transformation depending upon an instructors experience with reform and the situational factors of their course.