Southeastern Section - 64th Annual Meeting (19–20 March 2015)

Paper No. 5
Presentation Time: 8:00 AM-12:00 PM


HECKERT, Andrew B., Dept. of Geology, Appalachian State University, ASU Box 32067, Boone, NC 28608,

A goal of geological education is to develop earth science literacy and appreciation. At the introductory level this can be challenging because (1) of the need to invest teaching time in basic skills, and (2) novice learners lack the cognitive tools to make connections between laboratory assignments and the “real world.” Last Spring I instituted a “Portfolio” project in our GLY 1102 Historical Geology lab—an introductory course taught with no prerequisites for our general education program. Every week after lab the students are asked to develop 1-2 Powerpoint® slides on geological topics related to the exercise and relevant to their hometown, following a template we provide using Boone, NC as “home.” Topics include maps, minerals, rocks, tectonics, fossils, and chronology. Due to the geological diversity of North Carolina, and because our students come from across the state, relatively few students’ projects overlap (non-NC students are assigned state parks or other NC locations of their choosing). For topics that might not be relevant (e.g., fossils for students from the Piedmont and Blue Ridge), they are asked to identify the closest such features in the state. Specific resources used include Google Earth®, NC Geological Survey websites, and both generalized and detailed geologic maps. Each week the portfolio is uploaded and graded from 0 (not turned in) to 10 (outstanding), with instructor feedback provided in course management software. The assignment is “low stakes,” as the total value of the project is 10% of the lab grade (~2.5% of total 4-hour course grade). Assignments take less than 1 hr/lab section/week to grade. The short-term goal is to boost geological literacy, both in terms of general concepts and a familiar location, as students finish the semester with a ~20 slide “portfolio” of the geology of their hometown. One long-term goal is to make the best student assignments available online to support the state’s earth science secondary school teachers.