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

Paper No. 186-5
Presentation Time: 9:10 AM


DRIPPS, Weston R.1, RANSON, William A.2, ANDERSEN, C. Brannon1 and MUTHUKRISHNAN, Suresh1, (1)Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Furman University, 3300 Poinsett Highway, Greenville, SC 29613, (2)Earth and Environmental Sciences, Furman University, 3300 Poinsett Highway, Greenville, SC 29613, weston.dripps@furman.edu

“Teaching through Research” places great emphasis on collaborative faculty-student research and has become the cornerstone of engaged learning in Furman University’s Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences. All Bachelor of Science students within the department are required to complete a senior thesis based on original research completed during the summer prior to the senior year. During fall of their senior year, students enroll in “Research and Analysis”, a course designed to methodically guide them through the process of writing their senior thesis. Students meet as a cohort with an instructor twice a week and then individually with their thesis advisor on a weekly basis. The course provides detailed instruction on writing the various components to a thesis (e.g., introduction, methods, results, discussion) and requires that students generate multiple drafts of each section of their thesis with set deadlines. Drafts of each section are peer reviewed by classmates and assessed by the thesis advisor. Upon completion of the course, students have written a full draft of their thesis, and have submitted an abstract to a professional meeting. The spring term is used to further revise the thesis, present the work at a professional meeting, and defend the thesis at a public departmental defense. The recent addition of this course to the curriculum has provided substantially more instruction, structure, and collaboration within the research process, has significantly improved the quality of the research work, and has enhanced the thesis learning experience. The cohort model has changed what was previously an individual, independent, fairly isolating thesis experience to a peer supported, communal, collaborative bonding endeavor. This model requires a significant time commitment and active participation by all faculty overseeing thesis projects in order for it to be successful. From a curriculum development standpoint, the course has allowed the department to identify the core skills students need to successfully complete the senior thesis as well as exposed some competency weaknesses (e.g., graphing skills, hypothesis development, working with large datasets), which have subsequently been scaffolded throughout the curriculum, so that students build these skills prior to engaging in the senior thesis.
  • Dripps GSA 2015.ppt (7.4 MB)