GSA Annual Meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, USA - 2019

Paper No. 254-10
Presentation Time: 10:50 AM


CHERMAK, John, Department of Geosciences, Virginia Tech, 4044 Derring Hall, 926 West Campus Drive, Blacksburg, VA 24061 and FILER, Kimberly, Director and Assistant Provost for Teaching and Learning, Center For Teaching and Learning, Virginia Tech, 111 Hillcrest Hall, 385 West Campus Drive, Blacksburg, VA 24060

There are numerous distractions to engagement and learning in the modern classroom and examples include talking, cell phones, and off-task computers. Students “addiction” to their cell phones has been described and well characterized (J. M. Twenge, 2017). In the Department of Geosciences at Virginia Tech we teach “Earth Resources, Society and the Environment” large lecture courses to approximately 750 primarily non-majors students every academic year. This class uses active learning pedagogies and student learning and engagement has been evaluated since 2016 using the self-reported Student Assessment of their Learning Gains survey (SALG) and student perception of teaching evaluations (SPOT). As distractions in the classroom continued to be an issue, a no electronics policy was encouraged in Spring 2018 and fully implemented in Fall 2018. Significant changes in the student engagement and student learning data has been observed as shown by SALG and SPOT evaluations.

Students self-evaluation of their learning, integrating information and skills acquired in the class were assessed using SALG surveys from 2016 through 2019 using a scale of their gains ranging from great, good, moderate, a little, to no (Seymour, et al., 2000). In assessing their understanding of climate change in 2016 as compared to 2019, 29% responded they had a great gain, 37% a good gain, 25% a moderate gain in 2016 and improved to 57% had a great gain, 26% a good gain, 4% a moderate gain in 2019.

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 show a good/great gain of 48% and moderate gain of 31% in 2016 compared to an improvement of a good/great gain of 72% and moderate gain of 13% in 2019. The levels which students are self-evaluating their improvement of their ability to integrate information by using a critical approach to analyzing data and arguments in their daily life show a good/great gain of 48% and moderate gain of 31% in 2016 compared to another significant improvement of a good/great gain of 72% and moderate gain of 14% in 2019.

The SPOT data for the class is numerically assessed by students from 1 to 6 (1 – strongly disagree to 6 – strongly agree) to numerous questions. Results of the Spring/Fall 2016/17 classes to the question, Overall, The instructors teaching was effective ranged from 4.74 to 4.91 and improved in Fall 2018/Spring 2019 classes and ranged from 5.09 to 5.55. This is the question the University primarily uses when evaluating teaching performance.