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

Paper No. 89-10
Presentation Time: 10:45 AM


THORSON, Robert M., Geoscience, University of Connecticut, U-1045, 354 Mansfield Road, Storrs, CT 06269-1045, PARK BOUSH, Lisa, Center for Integrative Geosciences, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT 06269, GETTY, Patrick R., Center for Integrative Geosciences, University of Connecticut, 354 Mansfield Road U-1045, Storrs, CT 06269 and OUIMET, William B., Dept. of Geography; Center for Integrative Geosciences, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT 06269-4148, robert.thorson@uconn.edu

Teaching introductory geoscience at a large university poses challenges familiar to nearly everyone who has tried it. The largest challenge is meeting two opposing goals: 1) to provide geo-literacy courses for general education requirements, and 2) to provide more rigorous foundation courses for geology majors and those in related sciences. Yet typically, most geoscience majors "discover" geology while fulfilling the general education requirement, requiring them to re-take or duplicate course offerings to acquire the foundation skills necessary for success or entrance into upper division courses. We approached this problem within our curriculum by focusing on the laboratory component of the introductory course offerings. This new flexible model allows students who "discover" geology in any one of our 3-credit, geo-literacy courses to take an optional 1-credit lab that upgrades the content and rigor to the standard of our 4-credit foundation course. The other element to this design was the "flipped" nature of the lab and its hands-on, modular rigor that allows students deeper and broader understanding of all basic geologic concepts.

Within our curriculum, we have four 3-credit science literacy courses: Earth's Dynamic Environment; Natural Disasters and Environmental Change; Dinosaurs, Extinctions, and Environmental Catastrophes; and Geoscience and the American Landscape (Honors). Students meeting general education requirements for a non-lab science course may take one of the four courses, but no more. Those needing to meet a lab-science requirement, or needing the lab to meet the prerequisites for the "discovered" major, can add the lab at any subsequent time.

We completely redesigned the lab to fill content gaps and to upgrade geo-thinking skills. Each of the eleven labs contains four setups, each designed to facilitate engaged learning towards a concrete learning objective. We have developed our own in-house lab manual, which capitalizes on a local and regional sense of place, with campus at its center. Two field trips are designed to open and close the course. The pedagogical advances of a full-immersion lab designed around a ‘flipped’ classroom model are already adding to our teaching-learning-assessment portfolio, creating a model that can easily be adopted at any institution of any size.