GSA Annual Meeting in Phoenix, Arizona, USA - 2019

Paper No. 97-10
Presentation Time: 11:00 AM


FRYXELL, J.E., Dept. of Geological Sciences, California State University, 5500 University Parkway, San Bernardino, CA 92407

This technique is adapted from a graduate seminar I visited, where the students and the professor each brought two 3 x 5 cards to class with an idea or a passage that struck them from the week’s readings, generally a couple of articles. One student would start the ball rolling by “playing” a card -- reading the idea or passage, and leaving the card in the middle of the table. Anyone else with the same thing played their card at the same time. The group discussed that idea, until time came to move on to the next one, and someone else would play their card. The professor moderated the discussion to make sure the progression moved through the assigned readings, and to allow all students to play their cards in the available time. Everyone contributed, everyone participated in the discussion, and all the readings were covered by the time the seminar ended.

Adapting this to an undergraduate structural geology class, each student was required to bring two cards with questions about terms or concepts pertinent to the topic of the day to each class meeting. We started the class with playing cards, and I sat with the students while they played their cards. The main benefit of this was that students learned to trust that I was open to any question from the most basic (what are strike and dip?) to more complicated (what controls locations of major earthquakes?), i.e., it was “safe” to ask questions, and that they could stump me, in which case I would find the answer to their question and answer it the following class period. This generally took fifteen minutes of a two-hour class, but it made the lecture portion that followed flow better, with the students seeing where their questions fit into the larger topic of the day. As the term progressed, they could also ask questions about earlier topics that they thought were clear at the time, but then developed some uncertainty about. While I did not log office visits, they appeared to be more frequent when I have used this technique to start off each class period, suggesting that students were more comfortable asking questions in general. They certainly asked more during lectures and lab than in previous classes. In the two structural geology classes in which I used this technique, the students responded positively, and were more engaged overall in the course, as indicated by better work on quizzes and in lab exercises.