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

Paper No. 88-11
Presentation Time: 10:30 AM


CHERMAK, John, Department of Geosciences, Virginia Tech, 4044 Derring Hall, Blacksburg, VA 24061 and DREZEK MCCONNELL, Kathryne, Senior Director for Research and Assessment, AAC&U, 1818 R Street NW, Washington, DC 20009, jchermak@vt.edu

In the Department of Geosciences at Virginia Tech the “Resources and the Environment” course has been taught to both Geoscience majors and non-majors in a large lecture format for more than 10 years (average class size ~200 students). We have been evaluating and trying to mitigate the perceived disconnect between teaching, learning, and assessment by using learner-centered, authentic assessments that are embedded within the actual course. That said, such assessments are not always easy to implement, nor does the use of course-embedded activities automatically ensure that learner-centered assessment is taking place. Learner-centered assessment becomes even more challenging to implement when the scale and size of a course are seen as logistically and pedagogically prohibitive. The challenges inherent to teaching large classes – How can I move away from traditional lecture and use more active teaching strategies? How do I facilitate in-class participation and discussion in a large class? How can I move beyond multiple choice evaluations? – represent assessment challenges. This presentation will show examples of assessment results using; 1) Clickers which were used to identify student misconceptions related to significant scientific concepts and 2) Course imbedded assessments of student blogs and posters which were assignments within the course.

By using Clickers as more than “attendance takers,” we have been able to push students to think more critically about and to identify their misconceptions of the material and document student short and long-term retention. Data collected using Clickers have identified numerous challenges in terms of changing student’s original misconceptions, challenges that often stem from students’ prior knowledge of and experience with geosciences, which is often quite limited. Research in the learning sciences has established that prior knowledge is helpful to students’ learning new material when it is accurate, appropriate, sufficient, and activated through well-designed instructional strategies; it is a major hindrance to learning when it remains inactive, or is insufficient, inappropriate, or inaccurate (Ambrose, et al., 2010).