GSA Annual Meeting in Denver, Colorado, USA - 2016

Paper No. 305-5
Presentation Time: 2:45 PM


CHERMAK, John, Department of Geosciences, Virginia Tech, 4044 Derring Hall, Blacksburg, VA 24061 and FILER, Kim, Center for Instructional Development and Educational Research (CIDER), Virginia Tech, 109 Hillcrest Hall, 385 West Campus Drive, Blacksburg, VA 24061,

In the Department of Geosciences at Virginia Tech (VT) a “Resources and the Environment” course has been taught primarily to non-majors using active learning pedagogies in a large lecture format for the past 3 semesters (5 classes with and average class size of approximately 150 students). The classes are a “pilot” course of the general education transformation at VT to increase the use of active learning pedagogies and integrate ethical reasoning and global awareness across the curriculum. The new “Pathways Program” will be required of all incoming students starting in Fall 2018. This class is designed to meet learning outcomes in both reasoning in the natural sciences and intercultural and global awareness.

In these classes we have been using learner-centered, authentic assessments that are embedded within the course and include in-class group exercises, clickers, essay questions, group posters and the associated poster session, to assess student learning. In their evaluations numerous students highlighted the value of investigating, researching, creating and participating in the poster session to help in their learning. In two classes, students participated in the “Student Assessment of Their Learning Gains (SALG)” assessment. The most compelling aspects of the SALG data are the levels at which non-major students are building the skills of a scientist in a large class by recognizing a sound argument and appropriate use of evidence, writing documents in discipline-appropriate style and format, working effectively with others, and preparing and giving oral presentations. Students show a moderate (21%) and good/great gain (71%) of working effectively with others and a moderate (27%) and good/great gain (52%) preparing and giving oral presentations.