Northeastern Section - 50th Annual Meeting (23–25 March 2015)

Paper No. 4
Presentation Time: 8:00 AM-12:00 PM


CORALLO, Samantha, LUNA, Melissa, LARSEN, Kristine and WIZEVICH, Michael C., Geological Sciences, Central Connecticut State University, 1615 Stanley St, New Britain, CT 06050,

The “Earth and Life History” course at Central Connecticut State University is an introductory historical geology course intended for students who need to fulfill a general education science requirement or to serve as a prerequisite to advanced geology classes. Faculty members who have taught the course have frequently expressed dissatisfaction with student outcomes in terms of the understanding of important concepts. This study explores the thesis that prior misconceptions held by incoming students need to be directly addressed in order to improve the student learning outcomes. Misconceptions held by students taking this course in the Fall 2014 semester were identified using a preliminary assessment composed of 20 multiple-choice questions. This assessment was given to two 35-student sections of this course on the first day of class and the frequency of each misconception was identified through analysis of the results. Throughout the course of the semester, the instructor directly addressed the identified misconceptions through class lectures as well as homework exercises, and changes in the frequency of these misconceptions were measured through weekly quizzes and in-class exams. Quizzes and exams incorporated the same questions presented in the preliminary assessment. The results for both sections were similar. About 25% of the questions were not considered beyond the preliminary pretest because more than 50% of the students answered these questions correctly. Significant gains in understanding were noted for many of the remaining questions after initial instruction and the second assessment. A final measurement of the remaining frequency of each misconception will be a capstone administering of the initial misconception survey at the end of the semester. The preliminary results of this study indicate that student misconceptions were corrected throughout the semester. These assessment tests therefore allow instructors to learn ahead of time the concepts that may be problematic, and use that information in structuring course content.