GSA Annual Meeting in Indianapolis, Indiana, USA - 2018

Paper No. 145-5
Presentation Time: 9:10 AM


WALOWSKI, Kristina, Middlebury College, Geology Department, 276 Bicentennial Way, McCardell Bicentennial Hall, Middlebury, VT 05753 and ASTER, Ellen, Science Education, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR 97331

Undergraduate research experiences are shown to help students gain scientific content knowledge, better understanding of the nature of scientific inquiry, and improve confidence and self-efficacy (i.e., Saber et al., 2009). However, most students engaged in research opportunities are upper-division students (3rdand 4thyear) who have shown proficiency in their field of study, or students who have already established interest in scientific careers (Russell, 2006). Promoting scientific CURE-iosity within introductory courses is one way to engage first and second year students, with disciplinary diverse interests, in scientific inquiry. At Middlebury College, a long-running (>50 years) introductory course, “The Bedrock Geology of Vermont,” uses a series of field-based research projects to teach field skills and emphasize the connections between collecting data, making observations, and interpreting rock origins. This presentation will provide examples of research-based field exercises and discuss how aspects of the curriculum can usefully inform other, similarly focused introductory geoscience courses. It also concludes with three main takeaways relevant for postsecondary geoscience educators. First, a ‘research project’ does not have to be a course-long experience. Short (one class long) projects can engage students in interpreting rock sequences by generating real stratigraphic columns (instead of teaching this topic using a teacher-led lecture with pictures or models of stratigraphic columns). Second, student groupwork and data-sharing can be used to mitigate the effects of shorter class periods and larger course enrollments. Also, data sharing has the potential to incentivize students’ collection of higher quality data, better notetaking, and offer the opportunity to make broad interpretations from a larger dataset. Last, writing is key! Writing reports using a publication-style format has the potential to help students re-evaluate methodologies; reflect on the connections between collected data, observations, and interpretations; improve digital literacy; and practice scientific communication skills (Elgin et al., 2016).