GSA Annual Meeting in Denver, Colorado, USA - 2016

Paper No. 246-2
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM-6:30 PM


SMITH, Matthew C. and OLCOTT MARSHALL, Alison, Department of Geology, University of Kansas, Lindley Hall Rm 120, Lawrence, KS 66045,

Undergraduate students often take an introductory geology course either to fulfill education requirements or because it is thought to be easy. Thus, “Geol 121: Life Through Time from DNA to Dinosaurs” (GEOL 121), a class for non-Geology majors offered at the University of Kansas, may be the last, and possibly only, science class that an undergraduate student at KU takes. As such, GEOL 121 not only serves as an introduction to science and STEM to non-STEM students, but it is many students’ first impression of, and exposure to, geology and climate change science. This course is designed to allow students to develop an awareness of current climate change science by interweaving it with geological and paleontological information. It is a transformed active learning class, so students explore and discover knowledge themselves, rather than passively receiving it. The goal of the course is that by teaching through this complex, controversial and current issue, and by challenging students to directly engage with the science, there would be an increase in student understanding of the scientific method and its impact on their everyday lives.

Several approaches were used to assess the effectiveness of this course, including written reflections and the anonymous Student Assessment of their Learning Gains (SALG) survey, an authenticated online instrument focusing on the extent to which a course supported student learning. At the beginning of the semester, students are asked to assess their skills and attitudes, and then at the end of the semester they are asked to reflect and report on the extent of their learning. Together, these assessment methods allowed an exploration of how student understanding and acceptance of such climate concepts has changed through the course of the class, including attitudes towards geology and science in general. Thus far, the data are promising and show an increase in climate literacy in non-STEM students.