GSA Connects 2021 in Portland, Oregon

Paper No. 183-6
Presentation Time: 2:50 PM


MUHLBAUER, Jason, PhD, Biology, Geology and Environmental Science, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Chattanooga, TN 37403

In geoscience departments, a strong laboratory for physical geology supplements the classroom component with interactive experiences and represents a primary recruitment tool. Topics generally mirror the lecture, providing activities and hands-on experiments for one subject each week. Assessment of student understanding is commonly based on graded assignments, quizzes, and in some cases practicums. Utilization of a full lab period for group or individual activity maximizes the amount of material covered on a worksheet. But weekly transitions between topics leave scholars with little opportunity to reinforce learning, while at the same time, multi-section course loads for instructors or TAs limit feedback during assessment.

To address reinforcement and feedback limitations, a new laboratory course includes significant in-lab time for student discussion and reflection. By reducing the material covered and setting aside 25% of the lab period at the end of class, groups may compare their work to determine why their answers are inconsistent, or collaborate to answer a question more complex than any single group could complete. Learners are more likely to ask for clarification in a discussion setting that encourages or requires questioning the instructor. The time also allows for self or paired assessment during lab, improving reinforcement and lessening the burden on graders. After completing an exercise, scholars are assigned a six-sentence, guided reflection that allows them to share a summary, their experiences, and any questions that remain unclear. Reflections are scored with a rubric to assess individual levels of engagement. Preliminary implementations during online instruction in Summer 2021 led to mild improvements to evaluation scores and markedly positive student comments compared to prior semesters. In-person labs utilizing the new approach are in progress, with weekly surveys that gauge learner interest.