Paper No. 9-2
Presentation Time: 8:15 AM
FIELD-BASED CLASS RESEARCH PROJECTS AND THE METHODS OF GEOSCIENCE
Field-based class research projects have been the focus of most offerings of Sedimentary Geology (GEOL 360) at SUNY Oneonta for over 20 years (See http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/sedimentary/activities/13958.html). Course content, organization, readings and laboratory experiences are determined by the nature of the project each semester. Less content may be "covered" with this approach, but students' depth of understanding, sense of accomplishment, and growth in confidence are greatly enhanced. Each project is chosen carefully to 1) have the potential to yield results scientific significance, ideally with outcomes that are not already known by the instructor, 2) include collection and analysis of original data by the students, and 3) be capable of completion within the confines of a single semester. Projects are most successful when the instructor is actively involved as a collaborator/colleague/mentor. Projects have included investigation of sedimentologic processes, paleoenvironmental interpretation, stratigraphic correlation and the nature of contacts between units. The course includes additional experiences that enable students to develop the expertise necessary to gather and make sense of data. Over 40% of these class projects in the past decade have culminated in presentation of results at regional GSA conferences.
Class research projects are ideal venues for students to develop understanding of the methods of geoscience (Manduca and Kastens 2012; Cleland 2001; Markley 2010; see also http://serc.carleton.edu/integrate/workshops/methods2012/index.html) and gain practice in utilizing these methods. Such experiences are generally not available with a traditional lecture/lab format. Class discussions of projects, augmented by instructor comments, help make the methods of geoscience explicit and concrete for students. These discussions also provide opportunities for students to engage in metacognition when they evaluate their own learning (self-regulation) and affective aspects of their engagement with projects (motivation and attitudes).
Class size has been a limiting factor in project success. The largest class to submit an abstract to GSA had ten students. Strategies for scaling up for larger classes in future offerings need to be developed.