GSA Annual Meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, USA - 2019

Paper No. 264-7
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM-6:30 PM


DOLPHIN, Glenn, Geoscience, University of Calgary, 2500 University Drive NW, Department of Geoscience, Calgary, AB T2N 1N4, Canada

The author has structured a large (280 students) introductory geology course for non-science majors which contextualizes geology content using the history, philosophy and sociology of science. In addition, students formed small groups for the entirety of the term, doing all assessments of their learning (six short-term assignments, one long-term writing assignment, and three exams). A dramatization, multiple inquiry activities, a Wikipedia editing assignment, and group self-assessments round out the major instructional strategies used during the winter term of 2019.

Students expressed their understandings of geology and about geology responding to questionnaires at the beginning and end of the course to lend insight to the efficacy of such teaching strategies for student learning. Students responded to open-ended questions asking them to recount the last time the remember acting like a scientist, or what was important to remember about the development of scientific knowledge. Comparing the responses to these questions before and after the course helped signify changes in students’ understandings about geology (and science in general) in response to the teaching strategies.

Assessment of geology conceptual learning took the form of diagram-based questions administered through the classroom response system, Top Hat. The system offers a response format where students can click directly on a diagram using their Smart devices. This presents an opportunity for instructors to assess content learning and spatial understanding of geology diagrams. A heat map of student clicks is produced and can be revealed to students after answer a question.

Results show that students’ ideas about science changed from emphasizing scientism, that science knowledge is the only truth and a that objectivity, “the scientific method,” and controlled experimentation are the only ways to achieve this level of surety, to a more nuance understanding that science knowledge is a construct resulting from social influences and is subject to change if the evidence warrants it. In terms of geologic conceptual learning, heat map analyses showed an increase in student understanding of the foundational geologic concepts emphasized by the course structure, the earth has a history, that history is long, and the earth is dynamic.