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

Paper No. 23
Presentation Time: 1:00 PM-5:00 PM


GUIDRY, Dakota, HARRIS, Heather, HARRISON, Michael and WOLAK, Jeannette M., Department of Earth Sciences, Tennessee Tech University, Box 5062, Cookeville, TN 38505,

Twelve students from a large-format (>150 students) introductory geology course participated in a half-day long field trip that featured the geology of middle Tennessee. These students, a mix of geoscience majors and non-majors, were chosen because of their regular classroom attendance. The field trip included three outcrops along US 70N in Putnam County, TN. The outcrops were chosen because they exhibit geologic features and concepts that the students learned about in class, such as bedding, fossils, depositional environments, and mass extinctions. Moreover, these outcrops record >100 million years of earth history (Late Ordovician-Pennsylvanian) which allowed discussion of longer-term geologic processes such as plate tectonics and the formation of the Appalachian Mountains. At each outcrop, the students worked in groups to complete short tasks (e.g., identify rocks and fossils). Before leaving the outcrop, we presented a brief interpretation of the rocks and the events they record.

To assess the effect of the field trip on the student’s attitude toward geoscience and their understanding of fundamental geoscience concepts, we administered a pre- and post-trip survey consisting of 22 multiple-choice questions and a few free-response questions. Of these 22 questions, 10 assessed geoscience attitudes and 12 assessed conceptual understanding. Paired t-tests were performed for the multiple-choice questions. Overall, there was a highly significant gain in the student’s conceptual understanding, t(143)=3.27, p<0.01. The topics that showed the greatest gains in understanding, t(11)=2.55-3.1, p<0.05, were related to the local geology, field techniques, and geologic time. Interestingly, there was no significant change (p<0.05) in the student’s attitude regarding the geosciences after the trip. This result may simply reflect the pre-trip enthusiasm of the students. The free-response questions from the pre-trip survey revealed that the students were most interested in learning about the local geology; from the post-trip surveys, the students remarked that the field trip allowed them to better visualize (and touch) the concepts that were taught in class. This study demonstrates that even a short, local field trip produces measurable gains in a student’s understanding of geoscience concepts.