GSA Annual Meeting in Denver, Colorado, USA - 2016

Paper No. 306-9
Presentation Time: 4:15 PM


KORTZ, Karen M., Physics Department, Community College of Rhode Island, 1762 Louisquisset Pike, Lincoln, RI 02865 and SMAY, Jessica J., Earth and Space Science, San Jose City College, 2100 Moorpark Avenue, San Jose, CA 95128,

We applied cognitive research on how novice students learn in order to create newly-designed pages for an introductory geology textbook. For example, as indicated by research to be effective practices, these innovative pages combine text and figures, avoid extraneous information, and minimize geologic vocabulary. To test whether this research-informed approach impacts student learning and attitudes, we compared three equivalent sections of two textbooks (the newly-designed one and a high-market-share traditional textbook) in terms of student learning and student affective response. Students read three sections (topics: coal, formation of minerals, and causes of melting) from one textbook, and answered 13 multiple-choice questions measuring conceptual understanding and 15 questions measuring their affective response. 164 students in ten classes at two community colleges participated in the study. They were approximately half female and half ethnic minority, with an average age of 24. The pre-GCI scores were equivalent for classes in the two treatment groups. Pre-reading knowledge surveys indicate that students had the most difficulty with the cognitively-challenging topic of causes of melting. Both textbooks resulted in learning of conceptual content, but students scored slightly higher overall with the newly-designed textbook pages. The effect size varied by topic and was small/moderate for coal, moderate for minerals, and large for melting. Overall, students had positive affective feelings towards both textbooks, with statistically slightly more positive responses to the newly-designed textbook, although with small/moderate effect sizes. In particular, students felt the new textbook was more organized and had words and pictures that made more sense together. In summary, our research indicates that designing textbook pages based on research on how novices learn has a small but positive effect on student learning and attitudes, with a larger effect on conceptually-challenging topics.